By Melinda Johnson
A Chainsaw Chix and one of the Masters of the Chainsaw let the blades rip Thursday at the state fair.
The married couple, Brian and Jen Ruth, grabbed an array of Husqvarna chainsaws and created wood sculptures outside the Youth Building.
Brian Ruth, wearing a black tank, shorts, lace-up boots and short orange chaps, stood in a mesh cage atop a small hill in full midday sun. Mounds of sawdust and nine chainsaws of varying motor and blade size circled his interior work space. Along the perimeter, he was surrounded by a menagerie of past carvings, which included eagles, a raven, bears, owls, hummingbird, frog and more.
Ruth gave a yank and the chainsaw came to life with a growl. Wood chips flew and a lonely breeze blew a few into the faces of nearby onlookers. The spectacle drew a crowd, despite the noise and heat-radiating sidewalk. Glenn Brooks, of Fabius, had his videocamera out. A Vietnam veteran, Brooks said he has taped Ruth on previous fair outings.
At the start, Ruth was uncertain what shape he would make of the three-foot white pine stump, but he guessed a pig. Sure enough, a snout and some ears appeared as Ruth alternated chainsaws and angled his cuts. He smoothed the pig profile and added details. This wide-grinning pig had a curly-Q tail.
With an air compressor, he hosed off the pig and himself.
“I kind of get amazed at myself,” said Ruth. “I don’t think I’ve ever done a pig that good.”
Meanwhile, Jen Ruth, who has appeared as a chainsaw carver for three years at the fair, was in the shade creating a “sentimental” piece from a 4-foot stump of white pine.
On this day, designated Veteran’s Day and Fire and Rescue Day at the fair, Ruth wanted to pay tribute. “We have a lot of military out here and I’d like to show some support,” she said. It’s more meaningful for this mother of Dylan Cooper, a fresh Army recruit.
Dressed in a black-and-red T-shirt, jeans with black leather chaps, Jen Ruth readied to flip down her black wraparound sunglasses and ear protectors. She was about to step into a small mesh cage. “I’ll rock ‘n’ roll to music while I do this,” she said.
When she was done, a two vertical two topped a row of stripes for her version of the Stars and Stripes.
“We live, breathe and eat chainsaw,” said Jen Ruth. Brian Ruth travels eight months a year performing in the United States and abroad. He introduced chainsaw performance in Japan in 1995 and opened a school there in 2000. The couple visit the island nation each year.
Brian Ruth said through the years he has mastered his craft, increasing his ability to envision a shape as he works. But, “reduction sculpture” presents a challenge. “You can’t always put it back after it’s gone,” he said.
Ruth described his work as a performance. “The speed of it, the noise, the danger — all play into it.” But beyond the showmanship, “at the end of the show, it has real value, real beauty. It’s all validated.”
The Ruths, who live in the Poconos of Pennsylvania, are considered to be entertainers at the fair, they said. For Brian Ruth it’s his 18th year appearing here. He has been a chainsaw sculptor for 31 years. With a business degree from Villanova, he worked as a tree surgeon while in college.
Jen Ruth determines her husband’s mood for the day by his finished sculptures. This little piggy means only one thing — happiness.
Sarah Jessica Porker and Notorious P.I.G. race for the Gold
These little piggies (not all that little) did not cry wee-wee-wee or head for the market. Instead, the pigs were off to the races. Metal gates placed in curves and straight-aways formed a course at the infield amusement area.
With music thumping, the announcer introduced the pigs at the start of each race. Dale Earnhog Jr. competed against The Sizzler in the first outing. Follow up races included Vietnamese pot-bellied pigs named Sarah Jessica Porker, Notorious P.I.G., Britney Spareribs and Snoopy Hoggy Hog.
Trista Lunkenheimer, 7, of Cato, was on the sidelines rooting for the competitors. At home, she shares her bed with a stuffed toy pig. “It always sleeps with me,” she said.