After closing for a month during the 416 Fire, Purgatory was busy with locals and tourists on the Fourth of July weekend. Visitors were drawn in for the carving contest and other summer activities, including mountain biking, the alpine slide and ropes course, said Matthew Kritchman, Purgatory’s events manager.
“People have been so excited to get back up here. ... We’re looking forward to a great summer,” he said.
The two-day carving event drew eager spectators, who admired the speed of the contestants. During two timed events, bears, birds and a flower emerged from rough wood over the course of an hour.
“It amazes me what these guys can do with a chain saw,” said Larry Bareis, a Hermosa resident.
Carve Wars began three years ago and it hosts similar events across the country, said co-founder Dave Hagan.
In addition to showcasing their speed, contestants also crafted one larger piece each, dubbed a “masterpiece.” All of the pieces are auctioned off at each carving festival, and profits are split between the artists and event organizers, Hagan said.
Carve Wars spectators vote on the masterpieces to choose the winner of the event.
Purgatory visitors were won over by Travis Reed’s piece, which featured the female bear cub rescued from the 416 Fire. It was called “Only you can prevent forest fires.”
Reed, the only local competitor, is the owner of Western Sky Outfitters, a company that provides guided hunting trips and horseback rides.
Since it started June 1, the 416 Fire has consumed much of the area where the company normally takes customers, he said.
In recent weeks, he’s spent time sculpting at events, such as state and county fairs. But Saturday was the first time he’s ever participated in a local event.
Carve Wars has a unique appeal compared with some of the more traditional events Purgatory hosts, such as music and beer festivals, and Kritchman expects it will be back next year.