Waterfowl Festival: Dogs, Ducks, Art and Conservation

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“Where Art and Conservation Meet” is the well-chosen theme of the Premiere Night Party of the 46th annual Waterfowl Festival in Easton, Maryland. Close to 20,000 visitors are expected during the three-day celebration of the Eastern Shore’s waterfowl-related traditions, which will feature displays of art and carvings, a bazaar, retriever trials, kids’ activities, concerts and seasonal food and drink.

In other words, expect a lot of things for folks of all ages to see and do — all revolving around art, ducks and dogs — on Nov. 10, 11 and 12.

Demonstrations of retriever dogs (one of the festival’s main attractions, according to organizers) and raptors take place every day of the festival. There will also be demonstration of dock dogs and fly fishing.

Unique to this festival are the international waterfowl-calling championships. Senior preliminaries will take place on Friday, Nov. 10, from 12:30 to 7:30 p.m. and junior preliminaries on Saturday, Nov. 11, from 12:30 to 3:30 p.m., with the finals at 4 p.m. During the competition, you can learn the answer to the pressing question: “Do waterfowl from other regions and countries have a different call language?”

Activities for kids will include a daily art-project booth and decoy painting. A conservation mural arts project will be available for those who want to lend a hand (or a brush).

Festival admission is $15 ($20 after October) for the entire three-day event.

Photo by Tom Miller. Courtesy Waterfowl Festival.

The Waterfowl Festival was created in 1971 by a group of sports hunters and conservationists hoping to raise funds to preserve and protect the wildlife and habitat integral to the area’s way of life. They feared its loss due to the impact of greatly increased visitation to the once-remote area after the two major bridges were completed in the 1970s.

The festival has grown from three small exhibits in downtown Easton to more than a dozen venues throughout the town, with an annual economic impact of nearly $6 million.

Support for conservation projects has grown from initial proceeds of $7,500 donated to Ducks Unlimited to a total of more than $5.7 million in conservation grants to hundreds of projects by more than 50 organizations. “Going beyond its initial strategy of investing event proceeds in other organizations’ conservation and education projects, the Waterfowl Festival now actively partners with some grant recipients in collaborative efforts,” report the organizers. “Direct participation allows it to enlist multiple organizations and agencies in larger-scale projects with greater environmental significance.”

The Waterfowl Festival’s conservation arm, Waterfowl Chesapeake, further enhances the ability of the organization to fulfill its mission in support of waterfowl and the environment.

This year’s signature work of art, “The Long Stretch,” was created by 2017 featured artist Julia Rogers, a local Eastern Shore painter. “When you see the place you live through an artist’s vision, it inspires you and renews your love of the beauty that is here and your commitment to conserving it,” she says.

A Waterfowl Festival artist for many years, Rogers has been highlighted in the prestigious annual “Birds in Art Exhibition” at the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum in Wausau, Wisconsin, where her work has been purchased for the museum’s permanent collection. A board member of the Society of Animal Artists, she is a regular exhibitor in that organization’s annual show and at the Southeastern Wildlife Exposition in Charleston, South Carolina.

“Autumn Woodies” by Rob Leslie.

The opening ceremony for this year’s festival will take place Friday, Nov. 10, at 4 p.m. At the ceremony, the winning artist for the new federal duck stamp will be introduced and this year’s Hall of Fame Awards will be presented.

The Premiere Night Party, from 4:30 to 8:30 pm., will include a preview of this year’s art exhibits with a town-wide “Fin, Fowl and Farm” tasting tour and an open bar at each of Easton’s downtown art galleries. Festival artists are contributing a piece of art such as a decoy for the “Making Way for Ducklings” Art & Decoy Auction at 7 p.m. The proceeds will go toward college scholarships for young festival volunteers.

Premiere Night tickets start at $125. For details, visit waterfowlfestival.org.

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