REFLECTIONS ,  by Joe King                                                                          3-01-2000


                                                             “ RENDEZVOUS  2000 “        


            Ever heard of Ridgway Pennsylvania ? Well it’s quaint little town remotely located on a ridge in the north central mountains of Pennsylvania, and pretty as a picture.

We passed through it one time before on the way to New York and  it would be no big surprise if you hadn’t ever heard of it. But you soon will .As far as “what’s it near”, the best I can tell you is that it’s about halfway between Bradford Pa, corporate home of the world famous Zippo lighters, and Punxatawney lies about an equal distance in the opposite direction. Punxatawny as you may recall is home of the world record most over publicized annual media non- event since the advent of telecommunications, “Ground Hog Day “.

            A few miles outside of Ridgway is Boothill Summit, (elevation 2340), and home of “ Bootjack Enterprises “, or Rick and Randy Boni, chainsaw carvers at large ! I first heard about the “ Boni’s” several years ago, and it was something like “you should see these guys,  twin brothers, and boy are they a couple of good carvers “. Some time later I heard another nice story about them.

  Rick and Randy,  identical twins from a family of six children, had been born with a rare optical disease which left them both with cataracts at birth. Their visiondeteriorated, over years, to a point well below legal blindness. The story  focused on how they both underwent successful laser surgery at age 25, and how dramatically it had changed their lives. The best part of the story however was their eagerness to publicly share the experience, and encourage others with different  physical handicaps to never give up hope. I later came to find out that the stories were all true.                            

I finally got to meet Rick and Randy this past February along with their mom, their wives, friends and family ,and  about 30 some of their carving buddies. The “Boni Brothers” had been kicking around the idea of having a mid winter rendezvous for some time now, and finally decided to try it out in earnest. They put the word out partly by telephone, but mostly over the internet .The word was “bunch of carvers are going to get together, have some fun, and raise a little money for charity”. Having had  a personal contact with the “Make a wish foundation” a few years back, the Boni’s were thrilled when they agreed to sponsor the event. 

The second weekend in february was chosen in hopes that other carvers would have less commitments this time of year, and a little dose of cabin fever. This also allowed them to make it a winterfest as well, taking full advantage of the pristine mountainous setting.  My first reaction to the whole idea was “ well, sounds OK, I’ll have to think about it”. The second day I started to think that it might be fun, and by the third day I’m thinking “I wouldn’t miss out on this for all the tea in China!”

It was interesting to note that everyone I met throughout the weekend seem to have similar feelings. We were all just instantly drawn to the event. and chainsaw carvers started coming out of the woodwork. There were more carvers than you could shake a stick at, almost beyond words, but I’ll try!


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“Welcome To Ridgway” the sign said, and isn’t exciting to explore a new place. The town had already had already been infected with excitement, but in general nobody was quite sure what to expect, especially the Boni’s !People began pouring in from everywhere on Friday, and by Saturday they had quite a crew. Guys and gals were showing up from all along the eastern coast of the United States, Canada, Great Britain, and one from Germany. Randy Boni ever so humbly passed it off as, and I quote,  “well we just made a little snow ball and kicked it off the hill”. I instantly chuckled at that remark, a snow ball that had rolled all the way to Europe! 

A good many of the carvers had brought their families along with them and Rick Boni’s daughter Zoe commented about how cool it was to meet all of the women.     “These chainsaw guys are a different bunch you know, somewhat obsessed with what they do. They can be a little difficult to live with at times , like take my dad for example “! (What’s your point Zoe ?)

The three day event kicked off on friday with ice carving in the Elk county courthouse front lawn. Local business’s had donated the ice blocks and many of the wood carvers, like myself, got their first time ever try at ice carving. It was very fun and real different from what I had expected. The best part however was getting to meet the different carvers as they rolled into town. Dennis Heath for example had arrived the day before from England, and man is he ever carving up a storm over there. ( That’s another good story worth saving for another time)

People from town flocked by all day and watched as we hacked away at the ice. Some would ask “how did you ever learn how to do that ?” We would just hand them the saw and say “ here, go ahead and try for yourself, that’s how !” 

A few of us first time ice carvers were even lucky enough to find ourselves on the front page of the Tri County newspaper the next day, including Bob Dieterie from Buffalo New York. Bob had the biggest spot in the paper, front and center, full color,  half page, sub caption, and everything. Only thing is Bob had called off work to be there, and was hopeful that his boss wouldn’t catch the story !

Saturday was the big day, sunny and brisk. The main event was held at  “Sandy Beach Park”, and boy was it ever a nice place. Different areas had been set up to accommodate all the carvers, and allow for the safety of the general public as well. Pavilions and canopy’s were enclosed with plastic mesh, sort of like chicken wire, and this allowed the lookers to get very close to the carvers. A huge assortment of logs had been donated by local business owners so every carver had plenty to pick and choose from.

Off to one side of the activities was a big old campfire, and this was a great place to meet people, warm up, and tell a few stories. There is nothing quite like a big campfire in the middle of a brisk mountainous snowy setting. Conveniently located right nearby was Uncle Bob’s food concession. Hot food, and hot coffee for all right up until closing, GOOD JOB UNCLE BOB ! Uncle Bob worked with the Ridgeway YMCA, whom we soon came to discover was a significant other sponsor as well.


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Walking into the park was enchanting, and almost surreal. The first thing you heard was a deep buzzing sound off in the distance and it sounded almost like someone had dropped a microphone into a big hornets nest. In a word, it was electric. If the turnout of carvers was a surprise to anyone, then the turnout of people in general was even more impressive.

Each carver was asked to carve and donate something for the auction to be held at the end of the day, the real main event. There would be no first or second place award, but everyone knew that the best carving would get the most money for charity. What a powerful incentive to do good ! The collection of fine woodcarvers there was astounding, and what a nice bunch of guys. Twenty nine carvers in all, each with their own particular style, and each with their own unique story. At the end of the day almost nine thousand dollars had been raised, not too shabby!

This story could go on and on (and will) with pictures of, and individual stories about  all the great people that came together for one incredibly fun weekend. In closing however I would like to include an  e-mail from Dennis Heath, of Great Britain, which seems to best reflect the general mood of it all.

“This was an event which touched my heart and I will never forget it as long as I live. I am honored to have worked with these people, and to have known them.

This was the dream of twin brothers Randy and Rick Boni, what was to be a few carvers getting together during the winter to raise money for charity, renew their friendships, and make new friends.”

I would like to add something to that. Do you know what karma is? In the Buddhist faith (of which I am not), karma is the sum of all you do in life, good and bad combined. Good karma, for example can improve your position in the next life, and enhance your happiness in this one. Having said all that, if you look up “good karma” in the dictionary you will find a little picture of my buddies, Rick and Randy Boni.Thanks guys !

Have fun, and be safe !                     






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