Sawdust christens Chester Festival Grounds as carving event creates a Big Buzz

By Cynthia Prairie
©The Chester Telegraph — 2014

A crowd gathers early Sunday afternoon for the quick carve event during the Big Buzz Chainsaw Carving Festival. Photos by Shawn Cunningham unless otherwise noted.

A crowd gathers early Sunday afternoon for the quick carve event during the Big Buzz Chainsaw Carving Festival. Photos by Shawn Cunningham unless otherwise noted.

The sawdust flew under bright blue skies as the Big Buzz Chainsaw Carving Festival christened the new Chester Fairgrounds this past week. About 40 carvers from as far away as Germany traveled to Chester for the weeklong event, which culminated in a busy Columbus Day weekend of quick-carve events and a spectacle Saturday night of fire carving sculptures.

The festival ended Monday, but not before more than 2,200 people had walked through the fairgrounds, said Barre Pinske, the Chester chainsaw artist who not only organizes the annual carving fest but muscled the fairgrounds idea into fruition since he first proposed it before the Chester Select Board last March.

Brandon Wilson, 18, listens as Barre Pinske directs his next cut during the quick carve event.

Brandon Wilson, 18, listens as Barre Pinske directs his next cut during the quick carve event.

The weekend saw the biggest draw. By Sunday afternoon more than 1,500 visitors had driven into the fairgrounds, located on Route 103 South, across the street from the Heritage Deli, which took advantage of the crowds by setting up an outdoor grill.

As he watched the Sunday afternoon quick carve event, attorney and Chester resident Bill Dakin beamed broadly from beneath his turquoise Chester Beautification Committee cap and declared that he was “absolutely pleased by the overwhelming success” of this first event. “It’s been remarkable.”

A sign welcoming all to the Chester Festival Grounds.

A sign welcoming all to the Chester Festival Grounds.

While the driving force behind the fairgrounds idea was Pinske, Dakin worked on the leases and insurance for the land and incorporated Chester Festivals Inc. as a not-for-profit. “We’ll be leasing out the land for events, and Barre’s was our first event,” he said. Dakin also credited Paul and Brian Newton, who own the 7.5 acres of what had been a cornfield. “They are happy to have been able to do something with the festival grounds.”

Left, Saturday night's fire sculpture display featured a number of works. Photo by Barre Pinske. Their remains decorated the grounds on Sunday, right.

Left, Saturday night’s fire sculpture display featured a number of works. Photo by Barre Pinske. Their remains decorated the grounds on Sunday, right.

Dakin emphasized that the organization is not associated with any political party or governmental agency. It also did not receive any money from town government.

New Hampshire carver Alex Bieniecki, who took up the art again in July after a hiatus and specializes in “dark arts stuff,”   said on Sunday that the weekend “has been great,”   With a parking area filled with vehicles sporting licenses from as far away as Florida, Montana and Texas, he appeared to be correct.

One carver stands on platform below a gigantic American flag.

One carver stands on platform below a gigantic American flag.

Fiona Morton, a baker from Andover whose desserts are served at a number of restaurants, spent the weekend selling whole pies and slices as well as cookies, brownies and coffee from under a white tent. She seemed pleased with her sales and added that while she didn’t have to pay for the space outright, 10 percent of her proceeds will be returned to the nonprofit.

As a chilly and overcast Monday afternoon settled in, Pinske, who was out at the fairgrounds beginning the task of organizing a cleanup said, “I think it was very successful, people were happy and we’re over the hump.” He added that all the signage was donated by Chuck Hodgdon of Stadium Graphics of New Hampshire, a wood carver himself who also pitched in to organize the event and intends to help to ensure that next year’s is even more successful.

Next year, Big Buzz organizers hope to have more and varied vendors including more food and more crafts. And Pinske said he hopes the fairgrounds will attract more events. “I’d like to see more small, well-run events, a lot of them that can help benefit businesses in Chester … to see the inns so filled that someone comes to buy an empty inn.”

Anyone interested in renting the Chester Festival Grounds for an event should contact Bill Dakin at 875-4000.

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About the Author: Cynthia Prairie has been a newspaper editor more than 30 years. She has worked at such publications as the Raleigh Times, the Baltimore News American, the Buffalo Courier Express, the Chicago Sun-Times and the Patuxent Publishing chain of community newspapers in Maryland. She and her family moved to Chester, Vermont in 2004.

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