The chainsaw carving project began as part of the Rendezvous ’92 Committee, which was created to help with the celebrations for the 50th anniversary of the construction of the Alaska (Alcan) highway. The Chetwynd Rendezvous ’92 Committee wished to leave a lasting legacy of the community’s participation in the special event to celebrate this milestone of the Alaska Highway.
On December 31, 1990, a meeting of major businesses and community groups was called to discuss the idea of commissioning three bears which form part of the Welcome to Chetwynd sign display. Unanimous approval was given to commission the bear sculptures from master carver, Terry McKinnon.
Since completion of the bear scene, businesses, residents and fundraising efforts of the committee have supported the project. In the first year, the Rendezvous ’92 Committee held 42 different fundraisers to raise the money to bring the first carvings to town. Some of these fundraisers included baking cookies, hosting dances, and events centered around a visit to town by the first woman in space.
In 2005 Chetwynd hosted the first annual Chetwynd International Chainsaw Carving Championship, hosting seven carvers from B.C. and the United States. In 2006, the number of carvers attending increased to twelve carvers from all across North America. Chetwynd is now drawing international attention, with carvers coming as far away as Wales, North Wales, and Japan. Spectators are also traveling to Chetwynd from distances as great as the lower United States.
In 2008, ECHO Chainsaw Carving Series and Championship picked up our championship as a qualifying event for the 4th Annual ECHO Chainsaw Carving Series Championship at the Albuquerque International Balloon Festival in New Mexico during fall 2008.
The carvings themselves are becoming more intricate, with details so fine it is hard to believe that they were created with a chainsaw. Now there are more than 120 carvings located in various places around town.
Look forward to the annual Chetwynd International Chainsaw Carving Championship Invitational held the 2nd weekend of June every year.