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Chesapeake Wildfowl Expo presented by Ward Museum


SALISBURY–The Ward Museum of Wildfowl Art, Salisbury University, will host the 16th annual Chesapeake Wildfowl Expo, Saturday, Oct. 12.

This event pays tribute to old decoys while encouraging the carving of new ones. The museum, located on Schumaker Pond, provides the setting for this annual celebration of waterfowling events, which are an important part of the Delmarva Peninsula’s history.

On Oct. 12, vendors will convert the front 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, outdoor memorabilia and antique furniture. Traditionally, vendors and collectors are excited to see what “new” treasures will be brought to the marketplace. The public is encouraged to bring their antique decoys for free identification and appraisals.

The Chesapeake Wildfowl Expo provides attendees a day of 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., overlooking Schumaker Pond. During the challenge, working waterfowl decoys are judged in the water so their qualities and usefulness for hunting may be uated. There are separate competitions for shorebirds, woodpeckers and contemporary antique decoys. Prior to the start of the challenge, a separate youth competition for ages 17 and under takes place, with waterfowl decoys being floated and competing against one another for top honors. Competitors from Maine to California will migrate to Salisbury to participate in the challenge.

Made possible through a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Chesapeake Challenge will once again be enhanced by the Carving Out Future Decoy Makers Project. Ten carving instructors, representing flyways from across the United States, teach six students each, how to carve a traditional working decoy; bringing the finished decoys to be entered in the challenge. This year, a master carvers’ forum takes place prior to the start of the decoy competition, offering the public a chance to interact with the carvers as they discuss their experiences during the project. Students participating in the Carving Out Future Decoy Makers Project range from youth to grandfathers.

Another popular event is the “Old Birds” Antique Decoy Competition. Collectors from across the region enter their antique decoys (carved prior to 1950) for uation. This contest differs from the Shootin’ Stool Competition in that the decoy is no longer judged for its usefulness as a hunting tool, but it is 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.

Additional activities include a duck head-carving contest and a power- versus hand-carving demonstration. Children may participate in a variety of free activities and crafts including painting a Puffin silhouette, painting and basic carving, using Dremel tools. Concessions, including a bake sale, are available to expo attendees on both days.

The exhibit “Resurrection: The Taxidermist's Art” is in the museum’s LaMay Gallery. Taxidermy, from the Greek for “arrangement of skin” is the art of preparing and mounting the skins of animals for display and as sources for study. The practice has its roots in embalming and preservation methods familiar to the ancient Egyptians, but developments by European apothecaries in the middle ages as well as 17th-century innovations for mounting birds have all contributed to a contemporary art form in which anatomically accurate figures incorporate every detail of a species in artistically interesting poses that consider the animal’s natural behavior. Today, works of taxidermy serve simultaneously as trophies of the hunt, objects of scientific study, and works of art. Artists may take on flights on imagination through the creation of imaginary or anthropomorphic creatures. The LaMay Gallery will showcase the works of historic and contemporary taxidermists as we trace the history and possibilities of this enduring art form.

The museum’s Welcome Gallery showcases the exhibit “The Nature Photographer's Kit: From Plates to Pixels.” Showcasing two centuries of photography equipment from early 1800’s innovations to digital imaging, the exhibit will illustrate the progression and refinement of photographic equipment to capture nature’s beauty. This display will be on exhibit in the Welcome Gallery alongside the winning photographs from the 2013 Art In Nature Photography Competition.

Admission to the museum and event are free. For more information visit the Ward Museum Web site,, or call 410-742-4988, ext. 106.  

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