‘Tipton Tiger Project’ roars new life into derecho-damaged trees

Updated: May. 20, 2021 at 11:12 PM CDT
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TIPTON, Iowa (KCRG) - Tipton is the home of the tigers, the mascot of the Tipton Community School District, and a few new cats have joined the pack (or, more accurately, the streak — the name for a group of tigers).

“We are now tiger country,” Tipton resident Bob Rickard said.

Two wood sculptures of tigers have been carved into trees in the city, one of them in Rickard’s yard.

“It’s been a great project for the city and basically also for me,” he said.

A few blocks away, another tiger stands guard over the parking lot of Family Foods.

Brad Goetz, the grocery store’s owner and manager, catches that cat every day on his trip to work in the heart of Tipton.

“I thought it was a good idea to have one located here, on the corner of 7th and Cedar, where it’d be pretty visible for the town,” he said.

You might not hear those tigers roar.

But the buzz of Clint Henik’s chainsaw brings them to life.

“It’s just endless, the possibilities and different characters and stuff like that, so it’s not the same thing all the time,” said Henik, a chainsaw artist from Mount Vernon.

Henik started carving a third tiger across the street from Tipton High School on Thursday, a project he said will likely take him two or three days because of the detail.

What some might see as a hollowed-out tree, he envisions as a whole tiger family, with cubs playing at the feet of two adults.

“Many of these trees have been around for generations, and people just hate to chop them up and cut them down, so I’m just glad I could make a memorable piece for everyone,” Henik said.

Before they were reborn as tigers, all three trees were dead, too badly damaged in the Aug. 10 derecho to survive.

“We decided that we wanted to embellish what we had lost and make it magical and beautiful, and that’s exactly what Clint is doing,” Linda Beck, the City of Tipton’s development director, said.

The City of Tipton raised more than $7,000, all in donations, to pay for the sculptures, according to Beck, and they plan to keep raising money to transform even more trees.

Beck said other cities have reached out to them, inquiring how to bring a project like Tipton’s to their own communities.

“This has been a healing piece, and it’s brought people together,” Beck said.

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