Keep up the good work

Published 2:42 am Sunday, January 14, 2007

By Staff
When the East Carolina Wildlife Arts Festival and N.C. Decoy Carving Championships first appeared in Washington, the weather was anything but cooperative. That bad weather could have spelled disaster for the festival, leaving festival-goers with a less than favorable impression of Washington.
Thanks to the efforts of the East Carolina Wildfowl Guild, the festival enters its 12th year bigger and better than before. The guild has grown the festival into one of the better wildlife-related events in Washington and, arguably, the state and nation.
Following a growing tradition, the festival has added another new component to its lineup. This year, unveiling of the N.C. 2007 Junior Duck Stamp competition will take place during the festival in February. The N.C. 2007 Junior Duck Stamp competition, hosted by the guild, will be judged Jan. 30 at N.C. Estuarium.
As David Gossett, an East Carolina Wildfowl Guild spokesman and its show chairman, said, it’s another first for the guild.
The festival’s growth and its increasing lists of firsts mean good news for Washington. The publicity generated by the festival helps bring people to the city. That increase in tourist traffic provides an economic boost. At a time when the city could use additional revenues, any boost in money the city receives as a result of the festival is welcome.
Last year, the festival had an economic impact of $162,240 on the local economy, according to a study conducted for the Washington Tourism Development Authority.
That expenditure generated $11,356 in total sales-tax revenue, with the state’s share coming in at $7,300 and the county’s totaling $4,056. Most of the festival’s visitors were from outside Beaufort County, the report said.
It’s a safe bet this year’s figures will be higher, if good weather is around for the festival. Inclement weather and freezing temperatures at last year’s festival likely kept some people away.
And as Gossett pointed out after he reviewed the study, the analysis did not address “direct spending” by the guild to put on the festival and associated activities. That spending “puts thousands of dollars in the local economy” as the guild rents tents to house exhibitors, hires a caterer for the annual banquet and prints posters and fliers, Gossett noted.
A bigger, better festival each year promises more revenues for the city. So, it makes sense for the guild to expand the festival, something it’s been doing in recent years.
The more the festival offers, the the more it brings visitors to the city, said Lynn Lewis, the city’s tourism development director.
The “uniqueness” of the East Carolina Wildlife Arts Festival and North Carolina Decoy Carving Championships make Washington a destination for many people who may not visit the city for other reasons, Lewis said last year. Once they’re here and see what the area has to offer, they may find other reasons to return — and bring family members and friends with them, she said.
The guild should be encouraged — and thanked — for improving the festival.
Adding the N.C. 2007 Junior Duck Stamp competition to the festival lineup this year is a feather in the guild’s cap. It’s a cap being filled quickly with such feathers.
That’s a good thing for the guild — and the city.