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31st Annual Woodcarvers Festival etched for Saturday

This Hooded Merganser was carved by Gary Muhlenbruck, who has been attending the Woodcarvers Festival for nearly 20 years. The carving will be raffled at the festival. Photo by Jillian Gandsey.

The last Saturday in July has been sculpt out for Blackduck residents for 31 years and this year will be no different.

The 31st Annual Woodcarvers Festival, attended by many more than just locals, will begin at 9 a.m. Saturday, July 26 at the Blackduck Wayside Rest.

Longtime woodcarver Gary Muhlenbruck, of Thornton, Iowa, has made the journey north for nearly 20 years to the festival, and this year one of his carvings is being raffled. His Hooded Merganser wasn’t just carved, but woodburned and then painted, as well.

“The feathers are carved in and then I wood burn all of the veins in the feathers,” Muhlenbruck said. “A lot of guys don’t like to woodburn because it’s so consuming, but I still like to burn them in. It gives them a little different quality.”

Muhlenbruck isn’t sure of how long it took him to carve the bird as he said he doesn’t keep track of the amount of time he spends on his woodwork.

“I never will because then I start figuring how much an hour does that come out to and all of the sudden I quit,” he said with a laugh.

The average cost of his work is anywhere from $450 to $500 per piece and Muhlenbruck said that his prices have remained the same for the last 10 years.

“It’s just been a great bunch of people and I keep getting the same customers back year after year,” he said of the festival. “I think one fellow has a couple dozen of my carvings up in that area.”

Muhlenbruck said that he will have a few show specials on sale this year as he has in the past.

The event will feature more than 50 woodcarver booths and about 60 arts and craft vendors.

Diane McKean, one of the dozen volunteer organizers of the event, said visitors can expect everything from jewelry to birch bark frames for sale at the festival. Plenty of carved items and carving supplies will also be for sale.

McKean also said that entertainment will be provided at the festival including a Native American flutist, Jake Kaehny.

A tribute concert for former local choir teacher Judy Ross, who passed away this month, will also be held during the festival under the direction of Becky Haugen.

Another longtime woodcarver and attendee of the festival, Monte Draper, will have his annual youth carving workshop available from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. for children to participate in.

Draper said this year they will be refurbishing and recycling 14 years worth of old projects.

Local organizations will be providing food for the festival including the “Uffda Tacos” from the Garden Club and brats from the Lions Club. Church, school and youth groups will also be selling a variety of food items.

“It’s going to be a great festival,” McKean said. “We’re looking forward to a fabulous day for everybody.”

Jillian Gandsey

Jillian Gandsey is the Multimedia Editor at the Bemidji Pioneer. She is an Iron Range native and a 2013 graduate of Bemidji State University. Follow Jillian on Twitter and Instagram @jilliangandsey. Contact her at 218-333-9786, 218-996-1216 or at 

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