Freeborn County Fair 2023: Nerstrand wood carver showcasing talent at fair

Published 6:31 pm Tuesday, August 1, 2023

A new artist is displaying his work at the Freeborn County Fair this week. Except you won’t find him at the Creative Arts Building, nor Floral Hall.

Instead, he’s set up on the fairgrounds next to the Fairlane Community Building. It’s hard to miss him — just follow the sound of a chainsaw.

Woodcarver Curtis Ingvolstad, a Nerstrand resident, is making his debut at the fair this week, though this isn’t his first time showcasing at a fair.

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“I’ve carved at Winona County Fair for almost 12 years,” he said. “I’ve carved at various other fairs.

“I used to do more. I’m transitioning more just into my commissioned work now.”

He started doing fair carving as a way to practice for quick-carving competitions, and saw his work as a way to bring art to people who may not otherwise have an opportunity to see it.

He was asked to take part in the Freeborn County Fair after friend Jim Denkins couldn’t fit the fair into his schedule and suggested Ingvolstad.

Ingvolstad described himself as a risk-taker who had fun while creating things, with each carving taking roughly an hour.

“A lot of times the chainsaw part is about 30-35 minutes, maybe 45,” he said. “Then some stuff with tools.”

The process starts with finding the right piece of wood and cutting it down to 3 to 4 feet. He’ll then set the wood on a stand.

He’ll then begin his work by removing the biggest pieces of wood with a big saw before detailing features such as eyes, feathers, noses or ears.

Then he’ll incorporate die grinders and sanders for detail work to redefine everything before burning everything out and using brushes to brush the surface of a carving.

“Then I’ll go in and accent it with a little black paint, and then we’ll go back in and we’ll sand everything back out again that we’re going to sand and put a few little special details in after that and call it good,” he said.

For him, woodcarving allows him to tap into a creative process. And at the same time, he admitted he didn’t have to think about what he was doing.

“I just have to focus and do it and it’s done,” he said. “… I like doing these things because it’s a way [to unravel] my creative brain a little bit.”

It’s his hope doing these shows helps viewers find their own creative sparks and inspires them to support others.

He began woodcarving because it looked fun, and his interest has turned into a career spanning 24 years, nearly the last 15 as a full-time profession.

“My dad started doing carving, and after I went to school for art he ended up giving me some tools just to play around with, dremels, … I did some smaller stuff with that, started with fish and things,” he said.

While at the fair, he planned to do 20 sculptures over five days with a focus on Minnesota wildlife. All art will be made from white pine, which he noted gave a good result and carved well.

“There’ll be a lot of standard things that you expect like bears, eagles and things,” he said. “I like to do some gnomes, I’m going to do some ag team stuff.”

Most of Ingvolstad’s work involves custom commission work, and he previously did competitive carving where people from all over the world competed for cash prizes.

He’s competed in Hackensack, Eau Claire and even as far as Australia and Japan.

He described wood as having a live component, adding he enjoyed opening up wood and seeing what happened before turning it into something else.

All carvings will be available for sale. There will be one sale scheduled for outside of the fair office building at 5 p.m. Saturday. For more information on sales, visit or call the fair office (507-373-6965).