Make it a Waterfowl Festival WeekendPosted on: October 16, 2019 By: FHMD
When the geese start flying over historic Easton, Maryland, locals and out of towners alike know it’s time for the Waterfowl Festival, taking place November 8th, 9th, and 10th this year for its 49th birthday. Offering top hunting gear, fine art, local cuisine, and tons of education activities, each unique venue will immerse you in traditional Eastern Shore heritage. And don’t miss out on great hotel deals at the bottom of this article to make the most of your Waterfowl Festival Weekend!
Start with a stroll through the downtown streets to take in the fine art galleries which are must-sees even if you don’t consider yourself an “art person.” Art at the Avalon is perhaps the smallest but with must-see artists like Richard Clifton, the two-time Ducks Unlimited Artist of the Year and elaborate driftwood masterpieces from Larry Ringgold, it’s not to be missed.
Down the street, Art at the Armory also features a mix of painting and sculpture from a variety of inspirations, and for the first time ever, will also feature the Maryland Duck Stamp competition. You’ll be able to see all the entries and vote for your favorite as the “People’s Choice Award” before the final judging takes place at noon on Sunday of the Festival.
Across from the armory, Art at the Pavilion houses more unbelievable art as well as this year’s Featured Art piece titled “Podgin’ for Oysters” from Nancy Tankersley, a local artist who depicts a very local scene – a waterman in his traditional white boots hand tonging for oysters.
Also downtown, you can find Rich Smoker, recently named a 2019 NEA National Heritage Fellow, with his fellow talented carvers at the Carving Gallery at the Prager Family Auditorium. The Photography gallery, which features top-notch photographers and a mix of once-in-a-lifetime shots and pictures of places you’ve probably set foot, or taken a boat ride to, will be relocated to Christ Church for the year and new this year is a new Gallery entirely, of the Working Artist Forum at the Talbot County Free Library where juried artists from Maryland and Delaware will exhibit.
While browsing all the art, don’t miss the locally-inspired delicacies scattered throughout the streets! Carefully selected by the town’s Waterfowl Commission, several local non-profit organizations either cook up or partner up with a caterer to produce all kinds of Eastern Shore favorites like cream of crab soup, crab cakes, and of course, oysters raw, fried, frittered and every other way! No matter your choice, you are sure to be telling the folks back home about at least one thing you ate over the weekend.
With some food in your belly, stop in the Tasting Pavilion. After purchasing a wristband, you’ll get a souvenir glass to sample from local wineries and breweries and sample goodies like olive oils, chocolates and more. You’ll even get to taste the exclusive Wuterfowl Beer from uber-popular brewery RAR. Another downtown spot to wet your whistle is the Beer Wetland behind the Bullitt House to buy a glass of craft or domestic beer, or even a bloody mary, while also stretching your arms with a bit of cornhole.
If you’ve covered downtown or the kids are ready for some activities of their own, hop the free shuttle bus to Easton Middle School’s Chesapeake Marketplace exhibit, where there’s fun inside and out, and this year, this exhibit is free for folks just spending a few hours at the Festival. Outside there’s plenty of room for kids to run and jump on hay bales, food trucks, a recycling Touch-A-Truck from Maryland Environmental Service, and the Fishmobile from Phillip’s Wharf and more! Inside you’ll find working carvers and all sorts of perfect, one-of-a-kind gifts for everyone on your list… and yourself.
Check out the Marketplace’s schedule to see which children’s activities will be there during your visit, as there’s everything from soap carving with the Ward Museum of Waterfowl Art, painting a 7” miniature decoy, and Bay-themed storytimes from a different author every day. On Saturday, even the Chesapeake Mermaid will swim in for a visit and storytimes in her “lagoon!” followed by a miniature drone workshop with Horn Point Laboratory. Behind the school will be twice daily raptor in-flight demonstrations from the “Wings Over America” program from the Earth Conservation Corps.
Another great kid-friendly shuttle stop is the Bay Street Ponds, where you’ll find a free fishing derby, fly fishing demonstrations, and talented pups doing retriever demonstration from the Talbot Retriever Club.
Next, head to the Sporting Section, starting with some heritage at Easton High School. The Artifacts Exhibit is a unique opportunity to see collections from the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum and private collectors. Always carefully curated and different year after year, you’ll not only see the pieces but learn the role they played in fishing and hunting in Maryland.
Also in the high school is the Buy, Sell, Swap exhibit, the Festival’s oldest and largest exhibit. Dealers have a variety of heritage decoys, oyster tins, and other antiques and striking a deal for a treasure is encouraged! You’ll also get a chance to see the Federal Duck stamp artist make his first appearance as the winner for the 2019-2020 year.
Across the street is the Sportsman’s Pavilion at the Easton Elks Lodge, which continues to get bigger and better every year! There you’ll find top brands in gear, call makers and outfitters coming with their new products and show specials. Between the Molly’s Place Sporting Goods sponsor tent full of top brands and show specials and a chance at the Waterfowl’s Tracker Jon Boat raffle, you will be set for the season. The North American Diving Dogs are also jumping over to the Elk’s, with opportunities for beginner dogs and their owners to give a try at the sport.
For the little future hunters, they can try their hand at archery with the Izzac Walton League of the Midshore or have some target practice with a BB Gun with the National Wild Turkey Federation. The big event for youngsters is the Kid’s Calling Clinics, held at 11 am (duck) and 1 pm (goose), sponsored by Sean Mann Outdoors and RM Custom Calls where kids get guidance and their own call to take home and practice with.
On the other side of the calling spectrum, see some of the best callers in the nation at the World Waterfowl Calling Championship Contests as they do their best “live” calling. No routines here as contestants do their best to imitate a goose or duck you’d hear in the wild. After Preliminaries on Friday, Champions are announced Saturday evening, after an always-close contest. The prize packages may leave you wanting to try the sport but be warned – it is much a harder skill than it looks!
Newly named Champions will head across the street for the Sportsman’s Party on Saturday night where you can get a no-fuss meal with some Eastern Shore fixin’s, listen to some live music, and tempt Lady Luck with raffles drawings.
Whether you make it a day trip or a weekend trip, grab your tickets, good for all three days of the Festival, for $15 until Halloween, and going up to $20 on November 1. While there are visitors, exhibitors, and volunteers that have been at all 48 preceding festivals, this is your chance to join us for the 49th to see all that sporting heritage and tradition have to offer – with a side of soft shell crab sandwich. Festival proceeds go to Waterfowl Chesapeake, the Festival’s “sister” organization which acts as a community-focused funder, connector, and convener in support of waterfowl conservation.
To see all the Waterfowl Festival, historic Easton, and Maryland’s Eastern Shore have to offer, make it a fall weekend getaway! As you travel to and from the Festival, be sure to use the Chesapeake Scenic Byway for a gorgeous drive. Accommodations ranging from large resorts to quaint bed and breakfasts are all available in the area.
Waterfowl Festival Hotel Deals
6601 Bozman Neavitt rd.
Bozman, MD 21612
Use code FHMD2019
Call (717) 396-0474
101 East Dover St.
Easton, MD 21601
Call (410) 822-1300
We are offering a Waterfowl Bed & Breakfast Package that includes Breakfast Buffet for Two in Hunters’ Tavern each morning and Waterfowl Tickets for Two Guests valid the full weekend. This package is available at a two night minimum for Friday and Saturday and also available for the Tidewater House at 202 Dover.
We are also offering a Waterfowl Kick-Off Package on Wednesday and Thursday prior to the Festival weekend. This includes Welcome Drinks for Two Guests in Hunters’ Tavern, complimentary luggage storage upon check-out and complimentary valet parking.
Wades Point Inn On The Bay
10090 Wades Point Rd.
McDaniel, MD 21647
Book a room with us we will provide free weekend passes to Waterfowl Festival!
Call (410) 745-2500
21551 Chesapeake House Drive
Tilghman, MD 21671
Book 1 night and your 2nd night is 50% off, or Book 2 nights with us and your 3rd is free!
Call (410) 886-2121
This article was written by Leslie Milby
Images courtesy of the author