There’s the old saying — often associated with business or cities and towns — that goes like this: If you don’t grow, you die. That saying could well apply to an event like the East Carolina Wildlife Arts Festival and North Carolina Decoy Carving Championships.
With the East Carolina Wildfowl Guild organizing and managing the festival, which will make its 13th-consecutive appearance in Washington this year, that saying probably never will apply to the festival. Over the years, the festival has grown. That growth has included adding new events, many of them making their inaugural appearances at the festival.
As a prelude to this year’s festival and for the first time ever in the Old North State, a nationwide, public art competition will be conducted to select the winning artwork that will be used to produce the next North Carolina Waterfowl Conservation Stamp. The waterfowl stamp competition will be conducted Jan. 28-29 at the Turnage Theaters complex in Washington.
That’s a coup for the East Carolina Wildfowl Guild, Washington and the Turnage Theaters complex.
Last year, the East Carolina Wildfowl Guild served as host for the N.C. 2007 Junior Duck Stamp competition, which served as a prelude to the 2007 festival.
Last year, the Pamlico Regional Duck Calling Competition was part of the festival. The competition is a qualifier for the World’s Championship Duck Calling Contest held in Stuttgart, Ark., each year. In 2006, that competition, formerly held in South Carolina and known as the Swamp Fox Regional Duck Calling Competition, made its first appearance at the festival.
Also in 2006, the International Wildfowl Carvers Association’s inaugural Working Decoy Carving Championship was part of the festival lineup. Two years ago, then-IWCA President Byrn Watson, a carver who lives in Centralia, Wash., said the prestige and track record of the East Carolina Wildlife Arts Festival and North Carolina Decoy Carving Championships were key reasons the IWCA chose to hold its first Working Decoy Carving Championship in Washington.
Also in 2006, two other new competitive events joined the festival lineup; the N.C. Ducks Unlimited Working Decoy Carving Championship and the Tar River Annual Decoy Event, which was part of the festival in 2005 but not as an ECWAF competitive division.
Those events are coups, too.
With each coup it acquires, the East Carolina Wildfowl Guild makes the festival better. Recent additions to the festival have done a lot to expose more people to the need to protect wildlife and wildlife habitat, wildlife education and the artistry that goes into carving decoys and producing wildlife art. The festival also is entertaining. Attend one of the calling contests — duck, goose, swan or turkey — to find out just how entertaining calling wildfowl can be.
And last, but not least, a festival that continues to grow means better economic opportunities for Washington and Beaufort County.
In 2006, visitors to the festival had an 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.
With the festival taking place in February, many area merchants and lodging providers find that the festival generates revenues that come in handy during what traditionally is a slow time of the year for them.
It seems as if the East Carolina Wildfowl Guild is taking the attitude that more growth for the festival means more prosperity for the area. Washington and Beaufort County could use more prosperity — in many areas.
More prosperity — now, that would be a coup that could benefit everyone.