Festival needs saving

Published 3:15 pm Thursday, January 26, 2017

Wanted: the return of the East Carolina Wildlife Arts Festival and North Carolina Decoy Carving Championships.

After 21 years of bringing decoy carvers, wildlife artists, exhibitors and tourists to Washington in the middle of winter, the paired events — signature events for Washington — are not being held this winter. That’s a shame for several reasons, including economic and educational reasons.

The festival brought in revenue for restaurants, lodging establishments and other businesses during, what for many of them, is the slowest time of the year businesswise. Many eateries increased their wait staff to handle the increase in business. Hotels, motels and bed-and-breakfast establishments housed the carvers, artists, exhibitors and some tourists for as many and three nights.

The city and county received revenue generated by sales taxes. The city received revenue from its occupancy tax.

The festival also served an educational function, exposing children and adults to wildlife, especially waterfowl. That exposure provided information concerning habitats of the wildlife — where and when specific species of waterfowl winter in eastern North Carolina and other places along the Eastern Seaboard. All ages of people were exposed to wildlife conservation programs and why such programs are needed.

Waterfowl calling contests allowed callers to showcase their talents for calling ducks, geese and swan. Some of the winning callers in those contests were able to move on to regional, national and international calling competitions. If nothing else, the callers thrilled audiences who appreciated the callers who replicated the calls of real waterfowl.

For three years, the Washington Tourism Development Authority and the East Carolina Waterfowl Guild managed the festival. Last February, WTDA’s Board of Directors decided to return to its supportive role in regard to the festival instead of managing the festival because it does not have the resources to continue what it did in the past three years.

Perhaps a local nonprofit organization seeking a major fundraising project will take over the festival. Yes, organizing and managing the festival will take a lot of work, work that will occur throughout the year. Perhaps a civic club that has the needed resources will recognize the importance of the festival to the community and revive it.

The festival and its economic and educational components are worth saving. Hopefully, there’s an entity that’s willing to bring back the festival in 2018.