2016 Louisiana Wildfowl Festival
Hurricane Katrina did considerable damage to Louisiana in 2005. One of its many victims was the Louisiana Wildfowl Festival, a thriving competition that took place in New Orleans. The storm had a devastating effect on the show, which was sponsored by the Louisiana Wildfowl Carvers and Collectors guild. More than three-quarters of the guild members lost their homes to the storm and its floods, and many of them moved out of the state as a consequence. It seemed that the Louisiana show had been killed off by Mother Nature.
It hadn’t. The show returned from the dead in 2009, albeit at a new location. The show moved to the Castine Center in Mandeville, a town just north of Lake Pontchartrain. This year the Castine Center once again held the show over the first weekend in October, and as has been the case during the last few years, the generous prize money (totaling $45,000) lured in some of the carving world’s top talent, as well as the home-grown carvers who carry on a Louisiana tradition by creating some of the finest work you can find anywhere.
The biggest competition category continued to be Division III of the Best in Gulf-South, a $14,000 purchase award sponsored by the Conoco Phillips Company. The high stakes attracted a veritable who’s who of competitive carvers, with Richard Finch, Tom Horn, Josh Guge, Gary Eigenberger, Ashley Gray, and Jeff Rechin among the entrants. All of them are familiar faces at the Ward World Championship in Ocean City, Maryland, and they all brought exceptional work. This year Finch took the top honors with “Your Move,” a carving of a barn owl contemplating a mouse (the piece was also his entry in last year’s “Birds in Art” exhibit.) Richard Reeves took second and Tom Horn third, with Eigenberger getting an honorable mention.
In addition to the competitions, there were plenty of vendors on hand (including Wildfowl Carving Magazine), as well as demonstrations, Scouting events, and food (alligator sausage, anyone?). Cameras flashed when carving luminaries Tan, Jett, and Jude Brunet arrived on Saturday and signed copies of the recently published book A Legacy Preserved: Contemporary Louisiana Decoy Carvers by Harvey J. Lewis (University of Louisiana at Lafayette Press).
You will find more coverage in Competition 2016, but in the meantime, here are some photos. We will post a complete winners list once it becomes available.