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2016 Easton Waterfowl Festival

By: Tom Huntington

Jerry Painter was the Master Carver at this year’s festival. “Five in the Oven,” his sculpture of an ovenbird and its nest, was the show’s centerpiece carving. 

Once again, top carvers flocked to Maryland’s Eastern Shore to display (and, hopefully, sell) their work at the Easton Waterfowl Festival. This year’s festival, held on November 11-13, was the 46th annual outing, and waterfowl enthusiasts from far and wide took advantage of the incredible fall weather to explore everything it had to offer. The festival sprawls across 14 different venues in town and really does offer something for everyone—even people with no interest in waterfowl (if such people exist).

I have a special fondness for the festival, which takes place every November. When I became editor of Wildfowl Carving Magazine in the fall of 2006, the Waterfowl Festival was the first show I attended. My wife and I drove down for the day, and I spent a lot of time in the carving hall, which at that point was in the big brick armory building. (It has since moved into more spacious quarters in the Academy Art Museum, where it takes up three galleries.) This was my first real, in-depth introduction to the fascinating art form I was about to cover. I remember meeting and talking to Pat Godin, Richard Finch, Gary Eigenberger, Lonnie Dye, Ernie Muehlmatt, and many other great carvers. It was a terrific learning experience.

I’ve been back every year since. The cast of characters has changed a bit, but the breathtaking beauty of the work on display has not. This is not a competition—it’s a show where the artists sell their work—so we do not feature it in our annual Competition publication, which highlights winning work from competitive shows. Nonetheless, many of the carvers at the show have work that appears in Competition, and quite often I encounter birds that have been featured in Wildfowl Carving Magazine.

This year Jeff Rechin brought the flicker he carved and painted for the demonstration that began in the Fall 2016 issue (and will end in Winter 2017). Jeff also had the American kestrel he did for the Winter and Spring 2014 issues. Tom Baldwin had a couple of pieces that he did for the magazine (a parula warbler and a teasel habitat). Glenn McMurdo brought along a hen merganser that will make its appearance in the near future. I also enjoyed spending some time with Jerry Painter, the Master Carver for this year’s show. One of the pieces he brought was a gorgeous sculpture of an ovenbird and its nest, which he carved out of a box elder burl. The piece, which Jerry calls “Five in the Oven,” is a life-size version of a miniature piece he had carved earlier. Watch for a feature article about this carving in a future issue of Wildfowl Carving Magazine.

You will find plenty of decoys in the carvers gallery (decoy masters like Rich Smoker and Jack Cox are there), but there are decoys galore in the high school. Hundreds of them. You’ll find the real antiques and also many examples of contemporary work. One of the most impressive displays in the gym at the high school was by young carver Spencer Tinkham, who is busy carving out a very successful career by doing some extraordinary work. And there’s even more work to see in the elementary school, where I got a chance to chat with Ward Foundation Living Legend Bill Veasey.

And that’s just the carving stuff. Waterfowl enthusiasts can also see (and purchase) flat art and sculpture, enjoy the wine and beer tasting pavilion, watch retriever demonstrations, shop in Easton’s many little stores, or just enjoy the town.

The following photographs will give you a sample of the work I saw this year. I am already looking forward to 2017!
 

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