Before the Pandemic

By Diane Turck

Flickertail Woodcarvers just celebrated its 50th anniversary.  We have about 75 members and the Red River Valley Woodcarvers in Fargo-Moorhead is the closest active club.

Covid-19 has kept our club from many of its normal activities this year.  Usually we meet twice a month to carve, on the first Saturday morning and third Tuesday evening.  On Saturdays we also have a monthly meeting.  For our Whittle-Ins, a member volunteers to teach the projects ranging from seasonal Santas to clothespin crocodiles to cottonwood bark structures.  We have a lot of enjoyment in doing them.  Members bring items they are working on outside of the meetings for Show and Tell.

Over December and January two Whittle-Ins are reserved for carving snow snakes.  Members take other sticks to work on at home.  These are for a school project that combines Native American instruction about gaming (using 3-foot pine sticks) and other Native American activities along with Phy Ed and art.  The snakes we carve are simple forms that the children decorate and then race down hopefully snow-covered hills.  We have gotten a lot of positive feedback from this undertaking.  Some years one of the teachers gives Native American dollars to all the students or to the winners.

Another of our pursuits is carving Cancer Hearts for the local Cancer Society.  These are given to survivors.  All of the Hearts are different and the survivor gets to choose which they want.  Most of the hearts are carved by members on their own.  Occasionally, one of the Whittle-Ins is set aside to carve hearts.

Most of our normal activities have been curtailed by the corona virus.  Other years we have had a booth at a number of Bismarck’s events.  For example, given the health concerns of the community and of some of our members, we decided not to participate in the Capital A’Fair, and the Harvest Fest and Apple Fest were cancelled.

In May we hire an Expert Carver to hold a three day carving class.  In past years Janet Cordell and Jan Jensen have taught the class and more recently Bob Lawrence and Bob Pedigo from Fargo and our own club respectively have been the instructors.  This year, of course, the class was cancelled.

On the other hand, although we discontinued meeting in March, this summer, we determined that by social distancing and taking precautions we could meet for picnics.   For the last several summers, rather than having regular Whittle-Ins, we convene at a shelter in a nearby park for a pot luck dinner once a month.  There is some carving, some visiting, and of course, sharing of delicious food.  This summer, everyone brought their own food or ate before coming, but we still meet.  The picnic tables naturally placed at intervals, helped achieve the spacing we wanted for conversation.

Every fall, the second weekend in October, we host the Annual Flickertail Woodcarvers Show.  The public part of the show is in the afternoon on Saturday and Sunday.  Members from Bismarck and some from Fargo set up tables and visit with the public as they come through and ask about everyone’s different creations.  The show is free.  We used to have a fair number of Canadians come down to show and take classes, but wood restrictions crossing borders have meant that very few make the trip any longer. 

We ask an Expert Carver to teach a 5 day class, from Thursday to Sunday, and another educator to teach a smaller session on Saturday and Sunday mornings before the Show opens.  Again, we have had some excellent instructors.  Last year Jay Haavik showed how to carve a Scandinavian mythological relief panel, and Karen Henderson assisted us in carving spoons and associated instruments from water instead of dry carving.  Last fall we celebrated our 50th year as well.  The Show was over a major snowstorm, but went well anyway.  This year it has been cancelled due to the virus.

Our club does other things like assist boy scouts in earning wood carving merit badges, and teaching a fall class to anyone wanting to learn woodcarving.  We are arranging a display of spoons in the front windows of the library this month.  Our community involvement has enabled us to receive grant monies which help to defray costs of the experts that we obtain for classes.