Waterfowl Festival Wraps Up Its 47th Year

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Waterfowl Festival had many successes as well as some challenges during its 47th year. Despite the cold temperatures, the streets of Easton were full of people of all ages enjoying food, music and fall weather, making the downtown area vibrant with activity and showcasing the best of an Eastern Shore fall. Yet bustling streets are not the only measure of success for the town-wide, non-profit event; this year’s official attendance came in at approximately 14,300 people, a decrease from the last several years.

“Festival has always been about celebrating our community – through wildlife art, our sporting heritage, and the Eastern Shore way of life. We are very pleased to have attracted so many visitors to town,” says Festival President Albert Pritchett. “As an event, however, tickets sales are also a measure of our continued success, so the reduced number of tickets purchased is something we’ll be thinking about as we plan for the future.”

The more than fifty Festival Chairman – who volunteer countless hours and days to manage everything from venues and exhibits to ticket sales, transportation and security – were supported by a veritable army of more than 1,200 people who also gave their time to the weekend. “The Chairs and the community volunteers are the engine that make the Festival unique,” says Judy Knight, Festival Volunteer Chair, who is a volunteer herself. “We are so grateful to everyone who came out to make our 47th year a great success!”

The Festival weekend kicked off with Waterfowl Chesapeake’s Premiere Night Party, attended by more than 600 guests – including corporate supporters and art buyers – who turned out to enjoy an evening of food, cocktails and a preview of the Festival’s five downtown art galleries. The “Making Way for Ducklings” Art and Decoy Auction, held that evening to benefit the Wm. A. Perry Scholarship Fund, successfully raised more than $8,000 that will benefit local college-bound students. “We felt the evening was a great fun overall and were very pleased with the number of new people that joined the party,” said Waterfowl Chesapeake Executive Director Margaret Enloe.

The Chesapeake Conservation Pavilion, sponsored by Easton Utilities, hosted twenty conservation exhibits this year, a kids’ scavenger hunt and offered “Chesapeake Snap Chats” – short talks by experts that highlighted everything from oyster restoration efforts to using mosquito-larvae-eating zooplankton for pest control to changes in student education programs. It was also the location for the Friday morning “Coffee & Conservation” breakfast, co-hosted by Waterfowl and the Talbot County Office of Tourism and Economic Development, where more than 100 local business and conservation representatives networked and heard about innovative efforts to improve quality of life, build business and conservation partnerships and ways in which ‘green’ financing can be supportive of capital improvement projects.

In the five Festival Art Galleries, more than 110 of the world’s finest nature and wildlife artists – some here for their first Festival, some who were returning favorites – came from all over the world. Featured Artist Julia Rogers had a great weekend, selling “The Long Stretch” to a Festival guest from Virginia, who came specifically to purchase the piece. Master Carver Richard Jones was thrilled to sell several of his unique, interpretive bird sculptures as well, having one of his best events of the year.

If the number of children playing is any indication, families certainly seemed to enjoy the more family-friendly atmosphere at Easton Middle School venue which included an expanded food vendor area, a birds-of-prey handler and a hay bale maze. Several artisans in the Artisans’ Crafts and Gifts there reported selling out and seemed to enjoy the new layout for the venue. The ever-popular Delmarva DockDogs® continued to draw spectators but the temperatures meant fewer dogs made the leap into the chilly pool. Across town, temperatures didn’t stop our regional hunting dogs from showing off their skills at the Retriever Demonstrations, though the hardy spectators there and during the fishing activities were bundled up tight.

The expanded Sportsman’s Pavilion focused on the regions’ sporting heritage was a beehive of activity all weekend. With two new tents, including an additional space for duck and goose call-makers, several major vendors completely sold out of their wares. Activities onsite like the new Kids Goose & Duck Calling Clinic, led by champions from the World Waterfowl Calling Contest, saw registration fill quickly and helped introduce at least sixty of the youngest Festival guests to the nuances of duck and goose calling. Across the street, the Buy, Sell, Swap offered visitors the opportunity to learn about the Shore’s waterfowl-related heritage by visiting with traders and collectors. At the Harry M. Walsh Artifacts Exhibit next door guests had the singular opportunity to see museum exhibitions and private historic collections – including one belonging to a young, 13-year-old collector.

“The Festival owes a great deal of thanks to our many corporate, business, promotional and non-profit partners for their new or continued support this year,” says Pritchett. “We absolutely couldn’t do it without each and every one of them and the services that the town and county also provide. We are particularly grateful for the funding we received from the Talbot County Arts Council and Maryland State Arts Council.”

Waterfowl Festival will be back next year on the second weekend in November, the 9th – 11th, 2018.

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