Evart Round-Up attracts multitude of ages

EVART — Amidst all that modern technology offers, today’s kids may seem more interested in television, video games and their cellphones than hobbies such as wood carving. A visit to the annual wood-carving event Evart Roundup proved this is not always the case.

Among the 300 people attending this year’s event at the Osceola County 4H-FFA Fairgrounds, several kids as young as eight years old sat alongside adults, patiently whittling, hand carving and painting a multitude of pieces.

“It seems this year, there have been more children in attendance than in previous years,” said Floyd Rhadigan, roundup organizer. “In the past two years, there have been more kids. The grandparents bring their grandchildren. It’s a great outing for all of them.”

The young attendants came from all over Michigan, with some venturing to the event from out of state. Many kids had been introduced to the hobby by experienced family members. While some were just starting out, others were seasoned carvers. Whether they were an amateur or a blue-ribbon winner, one thing was for sure: all had gathered due to their passion for wood carving.

“I really enjoy it,” said Benjamin Hewitt, of Grand Rapids. Although he is only 12 years old, his work has been featured in a 2013 edition of Chit Chats magazine, which is put out by the National Wood Carvers Association. He also won first place and best in show in the junior category at a wood carving competition.

“I did a turtle coming out of its shell,” Hewitt said. “I was very surprised when I won.”

Another avid carver at the event is Brady Stauffer. The 12-year-old is from Hanover, Penn., and traveled to the festival with his mom, Heather.

Brady picked up his interest in carving from sitting around the campfire as a young boy and whittling on sticks. He currently takes a carving class once a week with Jack Miller, who gives workshops at the Roundup. This is the first year Brady and his mother have attended.

“I think it’s fun,” Brady said. “There’s a lot to do.”

Brady’s favorite things to carve are animals. On Thursday, he was working on a wood burning of a cardinal alongside his mother. They plan to attend a variety of classes throughout the event.

“I got into wood carving through Brady,” Heather said. “I take him to his classes and rather than just sit there bored, I got interested in trying it myself.”

Brady has put several of his pieces into competitions, winning ribbons in the process.

“It’s great to see him succeed,” Heather said. “He does get the recognition, which is nice.”

While some kids enjoy entering their pieces in competitions, others enjoy carving simply for the fun of it.

Kaitlyn Mccourry, 14, is from Wyoming and has attended the roundup for three years. She was first introduced to the hobby by her grandfather and enjoys sampling all the classes it has to offer. She said hand carving and wood burning are some of her favorite ways to carve.

“I’m carving a turtle right now,” she said. “I’m going to name it Sheldon when it’s done.”

Mccourry said she doesn’t carve at home; only at the roundup.

“Wood carving makes a mess and my mom doesn’t like it,” she said.

Rhadigan remembers when the roundup first started and only a few kids were in attendance.

Jacob Jankowski was one of those kids. Now 25, the Stanwood native has been attending the roundup since he was 10. After getting into wood carving through his grandfather, Jankowski was taken on as a student by well-known carver John Peterson. Jankowski attended his first world competition in Ocean City, Md., at nine years old. Although he started out on power tools, he enjoys carving as well.

“Wood carving is something different for kids to do than playing video games,” Jankowski said. “I’d been carving for about four or five years before I realized people get together and work on their own pieces.”

While it may seem challenging, wood carving clearly attracts a multitude of age ranges and skill levels. It is a hobby that can always be revisited.

“Kids can pick it up a little now and maybe put it aside,” Rhadigan said. “They can always pick it up again down the road.”