Historically, millions of resident and migratory waterfowl—including numerous species of ducks, geese, and swan—blanketed the winter skies in Maryland’s Eastern Shore. But in recent decades, those numbers have dropped dramatically, due largely to the degradation of wetland habitats.
It’s a trend visitors to the Waterfowl Festival can help turn around. Now in its 43rd year, the event returns in November to Easton, Maryland. Attracting more than 20,000 people annually, the event features hundreds of works of art for sale—paintings, photography, sculpture, and carved decoys—showcasing birds, ponds, and forest settings. It is a celebration of the region’s cultural and ecological heritage, and all proceeds go toward conservation efforts to protect the Chesapeake Bay’s threatened beaches and marshes, and to rebuild its migratory bird populations.
A handful of sportsmen-and-women created the event in 1971 to preserve the area’s ecology at a time when tourism was starting to spike. Since then, proceeds from ticket and art sales have surged to nearly $6 million. While funds have traditionally been given to regional and national nonprofit organizations, as well as state and federal agencies, festival organizers created an affiliated group in 2011, Waterfowl Chesapeake, to focus on conservation efforts year-round.
This year’s featured artist is Richard Christian, a self-taught painter from Connecticut who employs a distinctive palette knife technique to create texturally rich pieces. His Kaleidoscope, an acrylic and impressionistic depiction of a mallard duck in flight, serves as the festival’s signature painting. Another highlighted artist, HeinerHertling, is a plein-air painter, working in natural settings to capture scenes in vivid hues. He will present a collection of his works, “Celebrating the Chesapeake,” at the Festival’s Masters Gallery.
The schedule includes other activities as well. “Part of our mission is to honor the watermen, sportsmen, and the agricultural community—they’re still very alive and well,” says Megan Miller, the festival’s marketing and communications director. To that end, festival goers will find options like duck-calling contests, retriever demonstrations, music, and a variety of themed refreshments—including traditional Eastern Shore treats, of course. Look for local oysters on the half shell, soft-shell crab sandwiches, and cream of crab soup. The Waterfowl Festival takes place at various locations throughout Easton, MD, November 8–10. 410-822-4567