Chesapeake Wildfowl Expo this Saturday at Ward Museum

The Ward Museum of Wildfowl Art will host the 18th annual Chesapeake Wildfowl Expo this Saturday at the museum in Salisbury.

The Chesapeake Wildfowl Expo pays tribute to old decoys while encouraging the carving of new ones. The museum, located next to Schumaker Pond, provides an ideal setting for this annual celebration of waterfowling events, which are an important part of the Delmarva Peninsula’s culture and history.

Arriving before dawn, vendors will convert the museum parking lot into a festive marketplace for the Buy, Sell and Trade, which offers shoppers an eclectic mix of fine antique decoys, collectible hunting items, folk art and outdoor memorabilia.

Traditionally, vendors and collectors are excited to see what “new” treasures will be found in the marketplace. The public is encouraged to bring their antique decoys for free identification and appraisals.

With activities for every age, the Chesapeake Wildfowl Expo provides visitors a day of friendly competition and family fun. Decoy shows and competitions have been taking place for more than 100 years and have become a tradition within the American culture. Honoring these traditions, the museum holds its annual Chesapeake Challenge from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., in the museum parking lot. During the challenge, working waterfowl decoys are judged in the water so their qualities and usefulness for hunting may be evaluated. In addition to the waterfowl decoy competition, there are separate competitions for shorebirds, woodpeckers and contemporary antique decoys.

Another popular event is the “Old Birds” Antique Decoy Competition. Collectors from across the region enter their antique decoys (carved prior to 1950) for evaluation.

This contest differs from the Chesapeake Challenge’s Shootin’ Stool Competition in that the decoy is no longer judged for its usefulness as a hunting tool but is instead, judged for its collectability as a decoy with historical value. This year there are 10 categories of carvings which include specific species or carvings from a specific region or carver. This competition offers the public a unique opportunity to compare various collectible styles from around the country.

A variety of activities and crafts are available, free of charge, and include using power tools while receiving instruction from a champion carver and decoy painters. Additional activities include a duck head-carving contest and numerous carving demonstrations. Concessions, including a bake sale, are available to Expo attendees during show hours.

The exhibit “The Waterfowling Heritage of Assateague Island” will be in the museum’s LaMay Gallery starting October 2, 2015, through February 28, 2016. For centuries hunters, trappers, and waterfowl enthusiasts have been drawn to the natural beauty and abundance of Assateague Island, a barrier island off the coasts of Maryland and Virginia, along the Atlantic Flyway. In the early 20th century the island hosted several gunning clubs, hunting lodges, and visiting sportsmen making the most of the locale. This fall—during the 50th anniversary year of the Assateague Island National Seashore—the Ward Museum’s LaMay gallery will feature a look at Assateague’s gunning clubs, decoy makers, trappers, and hunters—as well as the beautiful natural environment that makes this island’s place in the world of waterfowling unique.

A Hunter’s Breakfast reception for the new exhibit will be on October 10, 2015, 9–11a.m. during the Chesapeake Wildfowl Expo as a way to pay homage to the hunter. In addition, we will have the dedication of the Henry Fleckenstein Decoy Study Gallery from 2-4 p.m.. Henry Fleckenstein passed away on December 12, 2014 at age 74. Fleckenstein was one of the great characters of the Eastern Shore of Maryland, and he loved the Chesapeake region dearly. His work as an author helped to promote appreciation of decoy carving as an art form, and he served as mentor and friend to countless individuals and organizations in the wildfowl carving community. In honor of Henry, The Ward Museum presents the “The Henry Fleckenstein Decoy Study Gallery”.

Admission to the museum and event are free but there is a small fee to participate in the Hunters Breakfast. For more information visit the Ward Museum Web site, www.wardmuseum.org, or call 410-742-4988, ext. 106.

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