|Andrew Mallon carves animals on a tree trunk at Hidden Oaks Nature Center.|
Mallon was at the Hidden Oaks Nature Center Sept. 9 carving raccoons, squirrels, and other woodland creatures into what’s left of a tulip poplar – a 10-foot stump – after it was struck by lightning and the rest of the tree had to be taken down.
Mallon expects it will take a full week of work to finish the project. He has carved tree trunks all over the region into whimsical characters, including a giant cat on Downing Street in Annandale, and a medieval scene – a dragon, wizard, knight, and damsel in distress – on the corner of Downing Street and Old Columbia Pike.
A carpenter by trade, Mallon discovered he had a unique talent for sculpture and learned to make delicate carvings with a chainsaw.
The completed project will be unveiled at the Hidden Oaks Nature Center’s free 50th anniversary celebration on Oct. 19.
Caroline Seitz, who volunteered at Hidden Oaks when she was a child and went on to found Kids Nature Shows and Reptiles Alive, will give a presentation on reptiles at the 50th anniversary event.
The celebration will also include music from the Vienna School of Rock honoring the 50th anniversary of Woodstock, the Fairfax Choral Society’s children’s group, a scavenger hunt with prizes, nature stories, turtle races, costumed characters, s’mores, a monarch tagging demonstration, and much more.
The Friends of the Hidden Oaks Nature Center organized a fundraising drive for the chainsaw carving project, which cost about $6,200. A Mastenbrook Grant from the Park Authority covered part of the cost, and individual donors contributed the rest. The Rotary Club of Bailey’s Crossroads donated $1,500 for Mallon to carve a huge log into a bench.
Donors who contributed to the project – from $250 to several thousand dollars – “adopted” an animal on the tree:
- Adult owl – Lisa Hylton
- Young owl – the Grapin family
- Fox – Bob Dinse and Laura Anderka
- Woodpecker – Josefina Doumbia
- Snake – the Feinberg family
- Gray squirrel – Sherry Letnick
- Flying squirrel – Naomi Bertha
- Rabbit – Benjamin Holland
- Raccoon – the Campopiano family in memory of longtime Hidden Oaks volunteer Bob Campopiano
- Turtle – in memory of former volunteer Vince Cardella.