Wednesday, 13 September 2017 15:51

They came, they saw, and they left (their art)

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Randy Gauthier works on his carving of Gainer the Gopher, the mascot for the Saskatchewan Roughriders. Randy Gauthier works on his carving of Gainer the Gopher, the mascot for the Saskatchewan Roughriders.

Five trees were transformed into works of art representing the community of Burstall last week as part of the annual Fall Fair celebrations and fundraising events.

Dave Pidlisny first came up with the idea of transforming trees into art and he got into contact with Marina Cole, of Chainsaw Spirit in Medicine Hat, who does just that using a chainsaw. Colleen Bodnarchuk, as chair of the Burstall Fall Fair committee, was added to the mix so the tree carving could become a four-day event leading up to the Fall Fair festivities Sept. 9-10.
Cole, contacted four other well-known chainsaw carvers she has met as she competes on the circuit, and they agreed to help out the small community on the Alberta/Saskatchewan border.
Working on the trees for residents and visitors alike from Sept. 6-9 were Cole, Randy Gauthier, from Moberly Lake, B.C., Doug Lingelbach from Saskatoon, Sask., and father and son duo Paul and Jacob Frenette from Kitchener, Ont who are known for being on HGTV’s Carver Kings.
“We always get entertainment in every year for the Fall Fair, and we thought this year we would make this the entertainment,” says Bodnarchuk about the chainsaw carvers.
Leading up to the week, Bodnarchuk, with help from others, worked to find sponsors for the trees. Each tree has a different theme. One is a memorial tree recognizing those who have passed away too soon while another is a Faith tree representing the three churches in the small community — St. Michael’s Catholic Church, Hope Evangelical and St. Paul’s Lutheran Church.
“It’s rare to have three denominations in a small town. We wanted to show we have three churches who work together,” says Bodnarchuk. The faith community comes together for the Fall Fair to host an interdenominational church service on the Sunday morning.
A third tree represents Saskatchewan and the celebration of Canada’s 150th anniversary of Confederation. It was sponsored by the Town of Burstall and the R.M. of Deer Forks.
The Borderline and Burstall Lions Clubs sponsored the fourth tree which was incorporated into the formation of a bench and will likely sit at Lions Park. The fifth tree was turned into Gainer the Gopher, the mascot for the Saskatchewan Roughriders. That tree was sponsored by community shareholders as 30 people stepped up to donate money for its completion.
The carvers also completed smaller projects that were to be auctioned off on Saturday afternoon.
Bodnarchuk was pleased with the interest from the community in the chainsaw carvers during the week. There was a crowd of people watching the transformation of the trees in the afternoons and evenings. She was hopeful the number of people from outside of Burstall taking in activities on the Saturday and Sunday would swell the town’s population.
The Fall Fair is one of the bigger fundraisers hosted in Burstall. Money raised is put back into community groups and initiatives. Community members currently have a lofty goal of fundraising for a new hall.
The carvers were impressed with the community of Burstall and the residents’ interest in their work.
“This community has been awesome,” said Gauthier.. “It’s amazing for such a small community. The outreach of resources which is helping us out has been really nice.”
Lingelbach was pleased to be in Burstall for one of his final shows before taking a break. He has been a chainsaw carver for 28 years.
“I love the creativity and the smiles it brings to people’s faces,” he said, adding the event in Burstall was also very well-run.
Jacob Frenette said he and his father Paul like to attend events that are about promoting and helping communities. Jacob has only been carving professionally for about two years, but as a second-generation carver he knows what performing and taking part in competitions is like.
His favourite part about being a chainsaw artist is the ability he has to express himself in each piece.
“Each person’s style comes out in the carving. You can take something and bring it to life.”
His father Paul Frenette was happy to travel to Burstall for the week, especially because he was able to work on the memorial piece. He and his wife had a stillborn son, so the idea of creating a memorial tree that is honouring those who have been taken too soon, spoke to him. He turned his tree into an adult angel cradling three child-like angels in her wings on the way up to heaven.
Although Carver Kings, of which Frenette was a cast member, is no longer filming, reruns can still be seen on HGTV. The father and son duo also have an active website where they post videos of their carving at

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Rose Sanchez

Assistant Managing Editor

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