Festival meets many needsPublished 5:16pm Tuesday, January 7, 2014
The upcoming East Carolina Wildlife Arts Festival and North Carolina Decoy Carving Championships is more than just one of Washington’s signature events, which it is. The festival, set for Feb. 7-9 in downtown Washington, is a celebration of an eastern North Carolina tradition — decoy carving — and the capturing of wildlife in art forms ranging from painting, sculpture and carving.
The festival is a showcase of the best wildlife artists in the nation, and in some cases, the world.
But the festival also brings area residents and visitors to Washington during what for most merchants is the slowest time of the year when it comes to sales. Those vendors and exhibitors participating in the festival spend money during the three-day event on lodging accommodations, food and other needs while in Washington. Festival visitors do the same, often eating in local restaurants, shopping and buying fuel for their vehicles. Simply put, the festival weekend provides an economic booster shot at a time when it’s needed.
In 2006, a study estimated expenditures at the 2006 festival by visitors, competitors, exhibitors and the public was estimated at $163,000. With the festival growing since 2006, those expenditures have grown with the festival, with some tourism officials indicating that impact is now around the $300,000 range, if now higher.
The festival also provides an opportunity for people to learn about the beauty of nature as exemplified by the depiction of wildlife in their natural habitats through various art forms. So many of the paintings, carvings and sculptures make their subjects almost come alive.
The festival, in its 19th year, offers some changes in 2014. There’s a new partnership that’s managing the festival. The East Carolina Wildfowl Guild, originators of the festival, has joined forces with the Washington Tourism Development Authority to organize and present the event. In addition to the usual festival activities, this year’s festival will feature expanded activities at the N.C. Estuarium and a new and expanded carving competition. The show chairwoman is Lynn Lewis, Washington’s tourism-development director. Jay Sullivan is chairman of the carving competitions and Mike Hicks is chairman of the festival’s auction component. Each has experience with past festivals.
Of course, they’ve been handed a festival with a history of being planned and operated properly, thanks to a Washington couple
For years, David and Sandra Gossett served as show chairman and exhibits/vendors chairwoman, respectively. After last year’s festival, the Gossetts turned the festival’s planning over to other guild members and the Washington Tourism Development Authority. A pair of good, hardworking and dedicated stewards of the festival have passed the torch to others who will carry on that legacy.