Swan Days Festival focuses on refuge’s wildlife and history

Published 7:47 pm Wednesday, December 6, 2017

They’re back, so it’s back.

The Alaskan tundra swans are returning to Mattamuskeet National Wildlife Refuge in Hyde County, and so is the Swan Days Festival, which runs from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at the refuge near Swan Quarter. The festival also celebrates the historic Mattamuskeet Lodge, and it will feature exotic bird exhibits by the Sylvan Heights Bird Park and a program about birds of prey by Steve Hoddy of EarthQuest. Another program will focus on the CCC “boys” of Company 424. They poured concrete used to form a new floor in the building that housed the pumps that drained Lake Mattamuskeet three times.

Those Civilian Conservation Corps “boys” — who poured that concrete Sept. 25, 1936 — will be honored during the festival.

Chase Luker, who carves waterfowl decoys the old-fashioned way, will share his skills by teaching others how to carve decoys. “Swan Days offers visitors the opportunity to dip into the Mattamuskeet area’s hunting heritage and become an active participant in its conservation-minded presence. I especially like hearing from the legendary sporting guides who worked the lake — they offer us a glimpse of the Golden Era and inspire us to strive for its return,” said Luker, northern coastal hunter education coordinator for the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission.

Morgan Harris, former history teacher and superintendent of Hyde County Schools, will coordinate a panel discussion about guiding hunters on Lake Mattamuskeet during past decades. The North Carolina Estuarium, based in Washington and part of the Partnership for the Sounds, is providing an exhibit of flora and fauna from its estuarine marine collection.

For complete festival information, visit www.swandays.com or the festival’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/pg/swandays/about/

Weather affects festival attendance, according to Debbie McGowan, the refuge’s administrative officer. If the weather is good, the festival can attract up to 600 people, possibly more. In inclement weather, attendance may not exceed 300 to 400 people, she noted.

The festival has its roots in the refuge’s annual open house, which began in 1981, McGowan said. The festival occurred annually from 1994 until 2002, when it was discontinued because of planned restoration work to the lodge, she noted. It resumed several years ago. Before it resumed, tram tours and open houses were held at the new visitors center, built in 2011, she said.

“The past few years has seen the festival making a comeback,” McGowan wrote in an email.










About Mike Voss

Mike Voss is the contributing editor at the Washington Daily News. He has a daughter and four grandchildren. Except for nearly six years he worked at the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Va., in the early to mid-1990s, he has been at the Daily News since April 1986.
Journalism awards:
• Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service, 1990.
• Society of Professional Journalists: Sigma Delta Chi Award, Bronze Medallion.
• Associated Press Managing Editors’ Public Service Award.
• Investigative Reporters & Editors’ Award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Public Service Award, 1989.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Investigative Reporting, 1990.
All those were for the articles he and Betty Gray wrote about the city’s contaminated water system in 1989-1990.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Investigative Reporting, 1991.
• North Carolina Press Association, Third Place, General News Reporting, 2005.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Lighter Columns, 2006.
Recently learned he will receive another award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Lighter Columns, 2010.
4. Lectured at or served on seminar panels at journalism schools at UNC-Chapel Hill, University of Maryland, Columbia University, Mary Washington University and Francis Marion University.

email author More by Mike