By Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer Published Jan 28, 2022 at 1:27 PM

When Milwaukee residents Mike Connell and Katie Major donated their 30-foot evergreen tree to the City of Milwaukee for its Christmas tree last fall, they likely didn’t imagine the route the tree would travel.

In addition to standing next to City Hall for the holiday season, the 108th annual city holiday tree provided flavor to Black Husky Brewing’s annual Sproose Double IPA beer. And now it will get yet another life.

brew day
Sproose brew day at Black Husky. (PHOTO: Milwaukee DPW)

Wood carver Bob Younger, of Younger's Woodery, has partnered with Black Husky and the City of Milwaukee Forestry Department to transform sections of its trunk into artwork.

The tree was taken down Friday morning by a forestry team who sheared off the branches and chipped them for mulch. Then they cut the trunk into four-foot sections.

“We’re going to try and get a couple of sculptures out of it,” says Younger, who lives in Eagle. “We're going to take four or five sections out.

“I'm going to work on one as a teaser for the event, show some progress, and build up the event.”

The event is a chainsaw carving demo and auction that will take place in Garden Park, across the street from Black Husky Brewing in Riverwest. A date has not yet been set for the event.

The 2021 holiday tree, just before it was removed Friday morning.

“There's two other carvers that'll be at the event with me,” adds Younger. “We carve, doing events like this. And if possible, they'll do a couple pieces out of it prior to the event and then we'll use what's left at the event. Then we'll bring in some more logs.

“It'll be chainsaw carvings. Who knows what we'll have. We have free rein pretty much, but I'm sure you'll see a couple of bears.”

Younger says he does all kinds of designs in his work, which he’s been doing for 29 years.

“I do just about anything,” says Younger, who has also carved at events in the Third Ward and at the Milwaukee Art Museum. “I have an eclectic approach. I like doing Santa Clauses. So I'll do a Santa Claus.”

But visitors can expect to see a bear or two.

“I talk to a lot of people that are interested in doing it and I tell them you got to be able to do a bear,” he says with a smile. “That's the biggest seller in the U.S. Overseas, it's a different market. I've met carvers from around the world at some of the events.”

It was at just such an event that Younger met Black Husky’s Tim Eichinger and the two hatched this plan.

(PHOTO: Milwaukee DPW)

“Bob and I met at an event at River Bend Nature Center down in Racine, and we were serving beer there,” Eichinger. “Whenever I see someone with a chainsaw, I stop and we talked about chainsaws, because I had five.

“I was telling about the thing that we had done with the spruce to make the beer. And he says, ‘Well, I've always wanted to do something with that. I thought I could get that part of the trunk and make a sculpture out of it.’ And I said, ‘I think we can make this happen.’ And here we are.”

The money from the auction of the sculptures – like the proceeds from the Sproose beer – will benefit the Milwaukee Urban Forestry Fund, which helps fund tree planting projects at city schools, parks and green spaces.

“The vast majority of trees replaced citywide by our Forestry team are repurposed rather than sent to a landfill," said DPW Director of Operations, Danielle Rodriguez, at a press conference Friday.

"It has been a longstanding goal to always get the highest and best use of this urban wood, and this sculpture initiative combining reuse of the City Christmas Tree with art certainly fulfils that goal. We are grateful that proceeds of the art sale will go toward continuing the important mission of the Milwaukee Urban Forestry Fund."

The fund, launched in 1991, is administered by the Greater Milwaukee Foundation.

"It's a great cause," says Eichinger. "We'll continue to do that and just keep things fun. It's nice for the DPW (because people complain) they're either picking up your garbage late or they're not plowing the roads right ... they don't get a lot of positive stuff."

Oh, and three days after donating the tree, Connell and Major were married and their guests were the first to taste this year’s Sproose.

But you shouldn’t count on tasting any yourself now.

“Nope,” confirms Eichinger. “We went through that already. I think we have a couple bottles. That's about it.”

There’s always next year.

Stay tuned for more details on the event as they are announced.

Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.

He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.

With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.

He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.

In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.

He has be heard on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories, in that station's most popular podcast.