Festival receives NCNC donation

Published 5:50 pm Thursday, September 23, 2010

Staff Writer

North Carolina’s Northeast Commission donated $2,500 to the East Carolina Wildfowl Guild to help the Washington-based guild present its annual East Carolina Wildlife Arts Festival and N.C. Decoy Carving Championships.
Vann Rogerson, chief executive officer of the commission, said the donation is part of the commission’s effort to increase economic development and tourism in the region. The commission was established in 1993 to promote economic development in North Carolina’s 16 northeast counties. It is one of seven such commissions across the state. Together, they serve all of the state’s 100 counties.
David Gossett, the festival’s show chairman, said the money will be used to promote the festival, which is centered at the Washington Civic Center. The guild conducts some festival events at nearby locations.
The 2011 festival, an annual event organized by the guild, is set for Feb. 11-13.
“Fundamentally, the commission is similar to our own Beaufort County Economic Development Commission,” said Tom Richter, a commissioner with the Northeast Economic Development Partnership and mayor of Washington Park. “It is promoting investment and job creation in the 16 counties with an emphasis on many projects with an emphasis regarding impact on those counties.”
According to Richter, economic development is defined by the commission as including two major areas of effort — industrial/manufactoring investment and tourism development.
“This particular waterfowl festival is viewed as economic development because for 16 years there have been between 3,000 to 5,000 people attending,” Richter said.
“This is something that has always impressed me more than just the numbers of attendees, is that we had people here from as many as 20 states last year,” Gossett said. “And 150 exhibitors are usually in attendance, with each exhibitor bringing anywhere from one to four people with them into Washington for a better part of a week.”
Gossett said several exhibitors have been coming to Washington the day before the festival opens to set up their booths. Many of them don’t leave until the day after the festival, “which is roughly four days of tourism dollars coming in,” he said.
Richter said the economic impact of the exhibitors, vendors and visitors at the festivals can be measured in hundreds of thousands of dollars each year.
“In 2006, an economic-impact study estimated expenditures by visitors, competitors, exhibitors and the general public was estimated at $240,000,” Richter said.
Over the years, the three-day festival has grown to include a number of events related to wildlife and waterfowl.
“Some examples include the decoy carving and artwork that everyone is familiar with,” he said. “It’s all for sale at the main festival site, the Civic Center.”
Joining the festival lineup over the years have been events such as the Southern Classic waterfowl-calling competitions and nationally sanctioned duck-, goose- and swan-calling championships.
“Last year, we added DockDogs competition, as regularly seen on ESPN and the Outdoor Channel,” Gossett said. “The festival has been evolving for the past 16 years and is a work in progress.”