Arts of the Pamlico working to return festival to downtown
Published 4:39 pm Wednesday, September 13, 2017
Arts of the Pamlico is trying to bring back the East Carolina Wildlife Arts Festival after a one-year absence.
After hearing Debra Torrence, AOP’s director, explain the arts council’s plan to revive what was one of Washington’s signature festivals, Washington’s City Council unanimously voted to allocate $1,250 (a sponsorship level) in city funds toward that effort. “We are really close to making this thing fly. No pun intended,” Torrence told the council.
“We were approached by a group of folks that worked on the wildlife arts festival for the past 20-plus years and were asked if we would consider coordinating the festival,” Torrence said. The plan is for the festival to occur Feb. 8-10 next year, she said. “We think we might be able to bring it back strongly and bring it back strongly over the next few years,” she added.
For 17 years, David and Sandra Gossett, members of the East Carolina Wildfowl Guild, worked with the city to put on the festival. David Gossett served as show chairman, while his wife recruited and booked exhibitors and vendors. The Gossetts stepped down from those duties several years ago. The Washington Tourism Development Authority took over responsibility for organizing and managing the festival, along with the East Carolina Wildfowl Guild, originator of the event.
In February 2016, WTDA’s Board of Directors decided to return to its supportive role in regard to the festival instead of managing the festival.
“The board agreed that our leadership for the past three years had run its course for the East Carolina Wildlife Festival, due to time constraints. However, we are fully supportive of the event and are eager to work with the Wildlife Guild or any other group that wishes to continue the show for the future,” Lynn Wingate (now Davis), the city’s tourism-development director, said at that February meeting.
She told the WTDA directors the festival grew into one of the city’s hallmark events over the past two decades, but WTDA does not have the resources, in staff or time, to continue organizing it.
The three-day festival drew several thousand people to Washington each year. Some of those visitors spent money at area restaurants and stayed at area lodging establishments. Many downtown eateries brought in extra workers for the festival weekend.
That’s why Mayor Mac Hodges said reviving the festival is important — it provides a boost to the area economy during a time such a boost is needed: winter, traditionally the slowest time business-wise for downtown and other businesses.