Visitors flock to Wildlife Arts Festival

Published 7:52 am Sunday, February 11, 2007

By Staff
By DAN PARSONS, Staff Writer
As an exhibitor in the East Carolina Wildlife Arts Festival, one so intimately associated with the art of decoy carving, one exhibitor decided to take the road he says is less traveled among wildlife artists.
The chisel- and knife-carved bass and trout Hunt has displayed at this year’s festival are so lifelike that they are almost indistinguishable from mounted fish.
When asked if it were ever difficult to part with his handmade works of art, Hunt said that “there are a few pieces that I can remember that I wish I had kept. But a friend once told me that if you keep all of your pieces you get complacent and stop carving.”
Decoy carver Al Jordan of Rochester, N.Y., brought an unusual date to the festival’s opening night. On his arm was Ky, a female Harris Hawk which Jordan says he “uses as a weapon” for hunting squirrels, rabbits and even ducks.
Whether traditional or otherwise, Sandra Gossett, one of the festival’s founders, was enthusiastic about the national interest in the show and the rate at which she has watched the event grow.
One of the highlights of the evening were the unveiling of the of the 2007 NC Jr. Duck Stamp and NC Duck Stamp winners. The bird chosen as the subject for this year’s competition was the colorful wood duck.
Putt, a resident of Boiling Springs, Pa., has won that state’s duck stamp title seven times in previous years.
The Jr. Duck Stamp winner was Christian Hunt, a high school student from Waynesville. His was chosen as the best of more than 500 entries from 50 schools across the state, presenter Patti Metheson said.
New to the 2007 show is the Southern Classic Duck, Goose and Swan calling Championships held Saturday and today on the west end of Stewart Parkway. Calling is a necessary skill for a hunter to have above and beyond good decoys, said Dan Baker, the 2005 World Swan Calling Champion who all the way from St. Leonard, Md. to compete.
Chuck Williams of Belhaven has been calling sawn with only his own mouth since 1998.
Always an integral part of the festival is the North Carolina Decoy Carving Championship Competition. Carvers from around the country come to compete in a number of divisions including everything from working decoys to artful and more decorative pieces and feature the entire spectrum of North American bird species. This year the competition is being held at the Red Men’s Lodge on 3rd Street where the winners will be announced this afternoon.