Forging and pumpkin carving bring in crowds; Fitchburg park is site for open-air contests.
FITCHBURG - In his free time, Joseph Lambert used to carve wood, create items from leather, and engage in several other hands-on activities.
The hobbies all got pushed aside when the Athol resident discovered blacksmithing. A laid-off ironworker, Mr. Lambert enjoys spending hours molding piping-hot metal into ornaments and tools.
"This is the creative aspect of working with steel," said Mr. Lambert, who competed yesterday in the intermediate division at the city's 4th annual Forge-In, a contest for blacksmiths. "It's a hobby I'd like to work into a paying hobby."
At least 2,000 area residents checked out the trade yesterday when they passed through Riverfront Park, site of the competition and a jointly planned pumpkin carving contest. Organizers said the events supported each other, attracting the interest of visitors who originally attended the festival to watch the forging contest and also entered the pumpkin competition or vice versa.
"I looked at this as bringing the community together," said Katrina Burton, event coordinator and administrative assistant for the city's Economic Development Office. "We had some people watch the Forge-In, and then leave, telling us they had to go home and carve their pumpkins before coming back."
More common in Europe, forge-ins give blacksmiths the opportunity to show off and win cash prizes for their skills. Co-sponsored by Achla Designs, a company that produces hand-forged iron goods, yesterday's event consisted of three divisions: novice, intermediate and professional. Each division was assigned several projects, which participants had to complete in an hour. Mr. Lambert's division tasks included making a toasting fork and two swivel hooks.
"The fact that you can heat a piece of metal and totally change its shape to make something decorative is really appealing," he said. "I've gotten rid of all my other hobbies so I could devote my time to blacksmithing."
For the past week, five elaborate sculptures by a blacksmith from Poland have been displayed at downtown locations. A dragon drew resident Linda Hier to the park.
"I saw all the statues and they just looked so gorgeous," said Mrs. Hier, who walked through the park yesterday afternoon with her husband, Jim, and daughter, Haylie. "I never realized how beautiful this park was."
Many visitors stopped to look at the pre-made, 18-inch-square panels blacksmiths created for a separate competition. The panels, which revolve around the theme of life by the water, have been collected since the first forge-in four years ago and will become permanent fixtures in the decorative entryway to the park.
Mr. Lambert estimated he spent a cumulative 40 hours forging his panel, which included a log, a frog and a dragonfly.
"It takes a lot of patience," he said.
As Mr. Lambert waited for organizers to announce the competition winners, Felicia Jamba, 3, and Vivien Jamba, 5, waited for their father to buy them drinks to accompany their kettle corn.
Somewhat ambivalent toward the blacksmithing component of the festival, the sisters enjoyed creating sand-art necklaces at an area vendor's booth.
"We've never been to this park before," said their father, Nicholas Jamba of Leominster. "They like it. We might come back later when the pumpkins are lit up."
At least 200 carved pumpkins rested on the wall at Riverfront Park that runs along the Nashua River. Alternatives Unlimited Inc., a Whitinsville-based nonprofit social services agency with a satellite campus in Leominster, was one of the sponsors of the Great Pumpkin Carve.
Cathy Bebeau, a manager of one of Alternatives' supported-living programs, said the event attracted many volunteers. "We've had folks volunteer for two-hour blocks who've stayed long after their two hours, just enjoying the day."
Jennifer Franklin and Craig Ehrenwald, both of Leominster, and Matt Brown of Worcester were among the volunteers. After spending hours helping children design and carve pumpkin faces, they started working on their own entries.
"Sometimes the kids' hands aren't strong enough to cut out the pumpkin, or they don't want to scoop out the guts," Mr. Brown said.
CUTLINE: (1) Jake R. Gallant, 8, of Fitchburg checks out the archway of decorative forged panels framing the entrance to Riverfront Park, site of the fourth annual Forge-In and Great Pumpkin Carve yesterday. (2) Maureen Daoust of Ashburnham brought her granddaughters, Julia M. Bordreau and Keaveny P. Magennis of Fitchburg, to Riverfront Park yesterday to check out the carved pumpkins and forged panels.
PHOTOG: MICHELLE SHEPPARD
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|Title Annotation:||LOCAL NEWS|
|Publication:||Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)|
|Date:||Oct 14, 2007|
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