MILTON-FREEWATER - Rather than using clay and a potter's wheel or a paintbrush and canvas, 10 men and a woman squared of with chain saws and logs during the third annual Logs to Frogs held Saturday near the Dollar Store on Highway 11 in Milton-Freewater.

The unique medium is gaining popularity in the United States and abroad and the Community Development Partnership has used the competition to raise funds for projects, said Fran Anderson, chairwoman of the event.

Along with the CDP, the city of Milton-Freewater has showcased the town's love for frogs, by requiring artists to include the amphibian in their main creations.

Mark Hudson, of Kingston, Wash., crafted a dancing frog, complete with a frilly tutu, well, as frilly as one can get with wood.

Jerry Miller, of Weston, began carving a pelican with fish and frogs on a lily pad. He crafted the lily pad into a chair.

"I'm trying to make the pad a seat - functional art," he said with a laugh.

Milton-Freewater is quite familiar with Miller's work, as he has been commissioned to carve frogs for businesses in town.

For the quick carve, anything goes. Artists have 75 minutes to turn their logs into a creation. The pieces are then auctioned off to determine the winner.

As the carvers anticipated the whistle, the air was filled with the screaming sounds of chain saws.

"We'll have nothing but a cloud of dust for the next hour and 15 minutes," said Steve Irving, one of the volunteers for the event. "And then we'll have some beautiful carvings."

Just as Irving had predicted, sawdust filled the air, along with the smell of gasoline and oil, as carvers wielded the tools of their trade.

Kay Jackson, of Branson, Mo., although the lone woman, had a distinct advantage.

"I'm just her pit crew. I just keep everything going," Jackson's husband, Roy, said.

Jackson's daughter, Jesi, 17, also pitched in to keep things running smoothly.

While other carvers had to stop to re-fuel, Jackson was merely handed another chain saw by one of her "pit crew."

The Jacksons own and operate their own carving business. After setting up shop in other areas, they found "tourist towns" to be more lucrative - extending their business season from the summer months to almost year-round.

However, the couple still finds time to travel to competitions and exhibitions.

Kay Jackson likes coming west, as it affords her the opportunity to visit her new grandchild.

Jackson was the only woman to qualify for the Echo Chain Saw Carving Championships held in Oshkosh, Wis. She received the honor by placing first in Michigan.

Her creations have included a 22-foot totem pole and a 15-foot-long log with a family of bears carved into it. Jackson has carved so many items in the last 15 years, she can't remember all she's done.

With sawdust speckled on her face and in her hair, Jackson donned a pair of safety glasses before beginning work on an eagle.

Just before the bell, indicating time had passed for the quick-carve, Jim Haskett, of Newman Lake, Wash., finished a bench, complete with a frog peering over the side. He kicked back and gave a "thumbs up" to the crowd.

Haskett received second place last year.

Matt Hambrook, who took first place in last year's competition, quick-carved a pair of eagles. His centerpiece project also included an eagle.

Hambrook said some of his larger carvings have sold for $3,000.

After getting tired of his job in steel and aluminum mills, Hambrook of La Center, Wash., picked up the art form after watching others doing it at fairs.

The single dad quit his job and now works out of his garage, traveling to competitions and shows more than a dozen times a year.

Sheri Caldwell, of Pendleton, decided to check out the competition to pick up some pointers, although she'll stick to the regular carve.

"I can't believe they work at that speed," she said about the quick carve.

She said she has seen many of the frogs around town, but had never seen them being carved.

"This is fabulous," she said.

The event continues today at 8 a.m. with a morning carve; a 1 p.m., quick carve; and an auction and awards ceremony at 3 p.m.

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