Festival must continue legacy

Published 10:58 pm Saturday, December 29, 2012

Now that David and Sandra Gossett have stepped down from organizing the annual East Carolina Wildlife Arts Festival and N.C. Decoy Carving Championships, others have taken on that demanding, time-consuming responsibility.

Members of the East Carolina Wildfowl Guild, which organize, present and oversee the festival can’t do it alone. Others will have to step to the plate if the festival, one of Washington’s signature events is to continue in the coming years.

The city needs to continue its support. The community needs to continue its support.

Why? Because the festival brings money to the city and county at a time of the year most merchants describe as their “slow” time of the year.

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.

Aside from the revenue the festival generates, it also generates good will and publicity for the city. Those are benefits it’s hard to put a price tag on.

When David Gossett announced he and Sandra were stepping down from running the festival at a City Council meeting in May, it became clear their work had not been taken for granted.

“You’ve succeeded beyond our wildest dreams. It’s been a huge, huge benefit for the city,” Mayor Archie Jennings told Gossett. “I’m sure we’ll find a time to thank you more thoroughly and appropriately. … I can’t imagine, at this point, not having a festival. So, I’m going to charge the staff to get with the guild and do whatever we have to do to try to bridge the gap in your absence and keep this thing going. You deserve that in the way of a legacy.”

The mayor is right. To let the festival disappear sometime during the next several years would be a disservice to the Gossetts and others who have made the festival one of the top ones of its kind in the nation.

Nothing would please the Gossetts more than seeing the festival become larger and better under new leadership. They more than did their part for almost 20 years. It’s time for different faces with new ideas and energy to carry the festival to the next level.