Thompson Square announced as headliner for Whittle the Wood

The crowd cheers on Everclear during a concert at the 2021 Whittle the Wood Rendezvous at Loudy-Simpson Park in Craig.
Andy Bockelman/For the Craig Press

Craig’s premier annual event returns June 22-25 this summer, and some easygoing sounds will be among the sweet hum of chainsaw artists.

Craig Parks and Recreation has announced the musical lineup for Whittle the Wood Rendezvous, the city’s yearly celebration of woodcarving and good times.

The husband-and-wife duo Thompson Square will headline the festival in a year where the country genre and its offshoots will be prominent at Loudy-Simpson Park.

The Nashville act — Keifer and Shawna Thompson — is best known for songs including “Are You Gonna Kiss Me or Not” and “If I Didn’t Have You,” both of which reached No. 1 in Country Airplay, with the former also topping the country charts, as well as making its mark on the Billboard Top 40.

Their most recent album, “Masterpiece,” was released in 2018, with their newest single, “Country in My Soul,” released earlier this month.

Craig Parks and Rec Director Ryan Dennison noted that in searching for noteworthy musical groups, the upcoming summer schedule for many acts helped him find a good mix for Whittle the Wood.

“We were looking for a wide, diverse bunch of genres and kind of landed on country,” he said.

A previous Whittle the Wood entrant, a sculpture of an eagle, stands on Victory Way outside the King Homes and Land Realty offices.
Cuyler Meade/ Craig Press

In promoting the event, Parks and Rec is emphasizing that the final two days of the four-day festival will contain 10 hours of music.

“We really wanted to get as much entertainment out there as we possibly can. Friday night, June 24, will be kind of big on the bluegrass, and then early Saturday, June 25, it will be a bit of both, then a little more country by the end of it,” Dennison said.

With seven total acts coming to Craig, the event’s Friday schedule will include Head for the Hills and The Lil’ Smokies.

Head for the Hills hails from Fort Collins and Lil’ Smokies from Missoula, Montana, with both bands familiar to Colorado audiences.

Head for the Hills is a four-time recipient of Best Bluegrass in Colorado from Denver’s Westword Magazine, while Lil’ Smokies was named the top group at the 2015 Telluride Bluegrass Festival among many other accolades.

Leading up to Thompson Square’s Saturday night show will be afternoon performances by Western Slope talent, including Durango’s High Country Hustle and Grand Junction band Stray Grass.

The schedule leads into a set by Tyler Reese Tritt, daughter of country music legend Travis Tritt and a rising star herself. Last but not least will be Texas Hill, a trio based in the Lone Star State whose style encompasses gospel, bluegrass and blues.

Carver Chad Stratton poses with his carving, "Clink," for which he won both People's Choice and Artist's Choice at the Whittle the Wood contest in 2021.
Andy Bockelman / For the Craig Press

Whittle the Wood will kick off June 22 as carvers begin crafting their pieces on display in Loudy-Simpson, with admission free for the first two days. Advance tickets will be available starting April 29.

In addition to the chainsaw artists and the concerts, Dennison said the goal is to increase the appeal of the event for all ages.

With the festival also working in conjunction with the Bear River Young Life car show downtown the same weekend, regular features including a free movie night, a bundle of bounce houses and other features for children.

“It’s the tried-and-true format, but we’re looking to bring in some different amenities, make Friday kind of the family night and bring in a lot of them for the event,” Dennison said. “I just got a confirmation for a vendor who we brought in for ax throwing, so that’ll be cool to tie that in to the woodcarving part of it. We’re also working with (Colorado Parks and Wildlife) to have an educational archery shoot for kids and families.”

Dennison is also hoping to be able to better utilize the stage area at Loudy-Simpson.

“There were some things we still needed to work out with that last year, and we’re still working with the county to get all that ready,” he said. “We’re always trying to improve and learn from last year and try to bring all the vendors and artists as close as we can to maximize the space out there.”

In his second full year of overseeing Whittle the Wood, Dennison said he’s picked up a lot from predecessor Dave Pike, who started the popular event and ran it for two decades.

“I was familiar with it for sure, but it’s a different animal with all the moving parts that come with it,” Dennison said. “We’re trying to do all we can ahead of time that sets us up well for later since we have so many other activities in the summer. It should be a lot of fun.”

If you go

What: 22nd Whittle the Wood

Where: Loudy-Simpson Park in Craig

When: June 22-25


Fernando Dulnuan competes in the Quick Carve of the 20th annual Whittle the Wood Rendezvous.
Craig Press archive

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