By Rose L. Thayer
Killeen Daily Herald
FLORENCE - The sounds of chipping, chiseling and the hum of air-powered pneumatic hammers could be heard from beneath a shady tent on the grounds of The Vineyard at Florence this weekend, as 10 stone carvers worked feverishly to complete their creations for the vineyard's two-day stone carving contest, which accompanies its annual Harvest Festival.
This is the fifth contest of its kind held at the vineyard at the suggestion of Bob Ragan, owner of Texas Carved Stone in Florence.
"For us carvers, it's like a reunion," said Ragan, who took home this year's top honors. "Carvers aren't on every block."
But the uniqueness of the event is catching on and bringing the small, spread-out community together. This year, carvers traveled from Indiana, North Carolina and even Scotland for the event.
Kambrah Garland, part owner of the vineyard, said the community loves to come out and watch as well.
"I think it's just an incredible opportunity to see an old world craft, almost lost, come to life," she said. "The amount of talent is overwhelming."
Like many of the other local carvers who participated, Matthew Johnson of Austin got into the art through an apprenticeship with Ragan. He now owns his own stone carving business near Georgetown and said what really fascinates him about stone carving is the longevity of his creation.
"It's pretty exciting to be able to imagine a shape and put it into a material where it's not going to go away for a long time," Johnson said, while taking a break from carving a detailed pillar from cordova cream stone.
One carver who stood out among the crowd was 8-year-old Sullivan Reganess of North Carolina. He's a fourth-generation stone worker, and his family is looking to move to Texas, so he can be surrounded by artists such as Ragan, said his father, Dean Reganess.
This is the second time they've traveled to the area for a carving contest.
"He gets to see all of the carvers' style," said Dean, who began carving stone 10 years ago and placed third in the competition. He began teaching his son at age 3. "Everybody has a very unique style. It makes his mind grow like crazy."
"I like to work," said Sullivan, standing by the fish he carved. His dad helped get it started, but Sullivan takes over from there, adding the details himself.
Despite it being a contest, the atmosphere under the tent remained friendly, even as the time to complete the project ticked away.
"We're all friends here," said Bruce Walker, who traveled from Kirriemuir, Scotland. He timed his trip to visit family in Austin so that he could participate. It's the 48-year-old stone carver's first trip to America, and he said there's nothing like the event back home. "I couldn't care less if I win or not; it's fun."
Contact Rose L. Thayer at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7463. Follow her on Twitter at KDHreporter.