4th Annual Waterfowl Festival This Weekend

Megan M. Spencer
HAND-CARVED DECOYS, both new and antique, will be a mainstay among the exhibits at the Hyde County Waterfowl festival.
HAND-CARVED DECOYS, both new and antique, will be a mainstay among the exhibits at the Hyde County Waterfowl festival.
Photo courtesy HCWA
This event will celebrate Hyde County's waterfowl heritage.

Hyde County Waterfowl Association is calling lovers of nature to celebrate Hyde’s waterfowl heritage by hosting the fourth annual Hyde County Waterfowl Festival, to be held this weekend.

The association will  kick off the two-and-a-half day event with a banquet on Friday, January 18 at Philips Place on U.S, 264 in New Holland. Doors open a 6 p.m. with a cocktail hour. Dinner of barbecue chicken, steamed shrimp and oyster stew will be served at 7 p.m. and an  auction begins at 8 p.m. Items up for grabs include firearms, hunting supplies and local art work. Cost is $40 per person and $60 per couple.

The Hyde County Waterfowl Festival will take place Saturday and Sunday, January 19 - 20. Held at the Mattamuskeet High School Gym, this year’s event will feature a host of local, regional and national artists - displaying wares such as original art work, guide service packages, hunting gear, accessories and of course, hand-carved decoys. President  Brad Gurganus extended a personal welcome to the local and out-of-town vendors, as well as the civic organizations that help make the event possible. He especially welcomed famed waterfowl artist Mike Helsabeck, who has participated and supported the festival since it’s inception more than five years ago.

State, local and federal agencies have also lent continued support to the festival. This year, the Wildlife Rescources Commission will set up an interactive laser shot simulator, allowing folks a free chance to test their shooting skills.

Doors open at 10 a.m. Saturday, with breakfast to be served by students of Mattamuskeet High School. Patrons can feast on breakfast, while supporting student life in the county. 

Gurganus noted that one of the organizers’ goal of the festival is to provide fund-raising opportunities for  Hyde County non-profit groups. In that spirit, local fire departments will be supplying lunch beginning at 11 a.m. each day. Offerings will vary, likely due to seasonality of the meal, but Gurganus was sure the Fairfield Volunteer Fire Departmant would be serving up chicken and barbecue for Sunday lunch.

In other fundraising efforts, student organizations will also offer concessions throughout the event. Area non-profits will also be on hand, with a chance to educate patrons on their causes.

When doors open on Saturday, so will guided tours of the Mattamuskeet National Wildlife refuge, with free transportation provided. Nature lovers will observe a plethora of tundra and wildlife in their natural setting, while under the direction of a knowledgeable tour guide that will explain locations and history. Tours are free and will be offered until 4 p.m. on Saturday and 3 p.m. on Sunday.

Gunning decoy artists will be able to register for the decoy contest from 9 to 10:45 Saturday morning. Judging will begin at 11 a.m. and ribbons will be placed on the winning exhibit soon thereafter. Spectators will be able to observe winning entries throughout the event.

Outside on the school grounds, retriever demonstrations will take place at 3 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. on Sunday.

Doors open to the general public on Sunday morning at 10 a.m., The agenda for the second day is packed with competitions for game calling hopefuls and experienced retrievers. Registration for those wishing to compete in the all-day calling competition takes place from 8 to 9:45 a.m. Sign up for the retriever competition will take place from 9 a.m. to noon, with the event to be held at 1 p.m.

Now on it’s fifth year, patrons attending the Hyde County Waterfowl Festival will find something for everyone. From hands-on demonstrations, to gifts and memorabilia, exhibits at the event will reflect the area’s rich culture of waterfowl habitat and coastal bounty. For a complete schedule of events, log on to www.hydewaterfowl.com or like Hyde County Waterfowl Festival on Facebook.

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