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Easton Waterfowl Festival

Nov 07, 2011 09:57PM ● Published by Anonymous

One hundred and sixty displays of oil paintings, prints, drawings, and watercolors shipped and transported from across the United States, will have been set up for viewing inside the massive room once designed for army exercises and training.



Inside and out, the building will be decorated with massive wreaths and floral arrangements created from dried plants, gourds, and flowers. The Armory is Festival headquarters, but it is only one of a dozen venues located throughout Easton, venues that include the elementary, middle, and high school as well as the historic Avalon Theatre, the Historical Society, Christ Church, and the Academy Art Museum.

Exhibits of sculpture and decoys as well as demonstrations of carving technique, fly fishing, retriever, and bird of prey demonstrations are all part of the four day festival, now in its 41st year. World championship live duck and geese calling contests, a cocktail decoy auction, a DockDogs competition, kid’s arts and nature activities, along with wine, beer, and food tastings are all on the schedule of a yearly event that marks the start of goose hunting season and raises funds to protect wildlife and habitat in the region. Last year The Waterfowl Festival raised more than five million dollars, which was given as conservation grants to more than 50 nonprofit organizations.

While the Festival itself takes place over a four-day period, the preparations for such a successful event take the entire year. The work of the staff and committee chairmen and volunteers begins as soon as the festival is over.

“Cleanup takes place in one night,” explains Festival administrator Nancy Wells who has been working for the festival since 1994. “Things go so fast, that a week after the festival,we are already putting things away in storage. Everything is done with great precision. The organization is a thing to behold. We work pretty hard right through Christmas. Perhaps there is a break the first week of January, but then we are working to organize the party for the volunteers that takes place the end of January or the start of February.”

As the administrator, Wells is in charge of all the paperwork and computers. Everything is entered into a data base for easy tracking. “This is a juried show,” explains Wells. “Application need to be received by February 15th along with images. The [Art]chair looks at the application and sees who was active last year, how much space is available and then the first week in March decides who to invite and the invitations are sent out.”

Meanwhile, other committees are working steadily planning for everything from the set-up of the information booths and the Premiere Night Party to security and tickets. There are 47 committees. Approximately 1500 volunteers do everything from setting up tents and directing traffic to trimming shrubbery and stuffing envelopes.

“Right after labor day we start to feel the heat. The calendar is our bible.” says Wells,

One of the larger committees, with 60 members, is the Decorating Committee headed up by Sandy Wrightson, who has done volunteer work for the festival since its inception. Beginning in August, the committee members begin collecting plant materials that include cattails, boxwood, and holly. By forging long-term agreements with local farms, churches, and businesses, members of the decorating committee are able to prune and gather vegetation. “Over the years we’ve built up a trust that we are good stewards of the properties to which we have access,” explains Wrightson who describes how as many as 20 to 25 tarps are loaded down with all the cuttings and clippings collected. The weekend after Halloween, volunteers arrive at Counsel Farms to collect gourds and pumpkins, all donated to the Festival with the closing of the Farm retail operations for the season. Collected items are eventually transported to the Waterfowl Building headquarters which becomes the hub for creating the hundreds of wreaths and arrangements requested. “A decoration request form goes out to all the chairmen and they tell us the size and number of the wreaths, and how many arrangements they need,” explains Wrightson. “We create small, medium, and large bushel arrangements as tall as six feet. “

While the staff and volunteers of the festival are laboring, the participants—particularly the artists, have also been investing long hours for the Festival.

“Some of the decorative carving that I create can take eighty to one-hundred hours to complete,” says Wayne Wheeler who has been an “official” exhibitor since 2009. Wheeler will be demonstrating his carving techniques at the Artist’s Workshop set up at the elementary school. “It takes time and patience to draw, carve, texture, and burn each and every feather on a bird,” he explains, “Painting a decorative carving is fun and all of the feathers are already laid out in the bird. A decorative slick or smoothie take a lot less time to carve, but is more difficult to paint.”

During the festival, the staff and volunteers work even harder to make certain things run smoothly. “There is always the unexpected to deal with,” explains Wells. “One year we had heavy rains and we had to move an exhibitor who had set up on the lawn and was being flooded by the torrential downpour. We needed to find a place they could move their entire exhibit that had a cement or asphalt base and then make new signs, so that once they were moved, people could find them since they would be following the information on the program or website.”

As soon as the festival ends, the process starts anew. While most items are dismantled to be reused the following year, some of the decorations are taken home by volunteers to enjoy. “I did put two of the wreaths on my house,” says Wells, “I couldn’t bear to take them apart.”

Last year The Waterfowl Festival raised more than five million dollars, which was given as conservation grants to more than 50 nonprofit organizations.

“What I like most about the Waterfowl Festival is the exposure it gives the artists. Thousands of people view your work for three days from all over the country. The festival also helps the local restaurants and hotels.,” says carver Wayne Wheeler.

The basement floor of the armory and items stored on shelves are covered with plastic while volunteers work.. The electric frying pans in the foreground are used for heating the volume of glue used to create all the needed decorations.

Approximately 1500 volunteers do everything from setting up tents and directing traffic to trimming shrubbery and stuffing envelopes.

"A decoration request form goes out to all the chairmen and they tell us the size and number of the wreaths, and how many arrangements they need. We create small, medium, and large bushel arrangements as tall as six feet." —SANDY WRIGHTSON, Chair of the Decorating Committee

"Some of the decorative carving that I create can take eighty to one-hundred hours to complete.” —WAYNE WHEELER, exhibitor since 2009

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