EASTON — A little cold weather is nothing for a duck, and it was nothing for thousands of people who showed up in town Saturday, Nov. 9, for the 49th annual Waterfowl Festival.
The streets were packed with folks all bundled up in winter coats, sporting wool hats, boots — even the dogs were wearing sweaters.
The weekend started out rainy on Thursday night for the preview party, then chilly and windy on Friday. Friday’s crowds reportedly were a little thinner than usual as people ducked into buildings out of the cold wind. The wind reportedly postponed the Izaak Walton League’s Archery demonstrations near the Elks Lodge on Dutchmans Lane, which went on as planned on Saturday.
“I’m told that Friday is the day that people who are really interested in collecting come,” said Jeanne Halpin, an information volunteer with the Festival. Halpin was handing out information at the intersection of Washington and Dover streets on Saturday.
“They want to get (artwork) before the big crowds get here,” she said.
Saturday dawned cold, clear and sunny — autumn had come at last. Visitors came by the car and van load to town and swelled into the thousands.
And all that hiking around in the cold worked up an appetite for Eastern Shore cuisine.
Washington and Harrison Street’s food vendors were blessed with long lines of hungry patrons waiting for hot cream of crab soup, clam strips, hot apple cider and lots of other goodies. Raw oysters on the half shell were going down the hatch at a rapid rate.
Halpin recommended venues on Harrison Street that included painting and sculpture at the Avalon Theatre, the Featured Artist Nancy Tankersley and others in the pavilion tent, painting and sculpture at Waterfowl Festival Headquarters and photography at Christ Church.
“It’s overwhelming and amazing,” she said. “I’ve only lived here six years, and every year I get to understand it better.”
On Washington Street, the carving exhibit at the Prager Family Auditorium is quite remarkable, she said, and also serves as a respite for visitors needing to sit down or use the restroom.
Easton Police Lt. George Paugh was standing guard near the courthouse on Washington Street Saturday.
Paugh said he was in his 23rd year of working the Waterfowl Festival and has seen it grow in leaps and bounds.
“The crowd looks good,” he said Saturday. “I think tomorrow will be even better. It’s supposed to be warmer tomorrow.”
He said popular crowd hot spots have been Easton’s business district, on Harrison and Washington streets, and Easton High School with the whole gymnasium set up as “Buy, Sell, Swap.” Other areas at school house the Walsh Waterfowling Artifacts exhibit.
Talbot County schoolchildren were off from school on Friday for the Festival.
Artwork submissions and the winning painting for the 2020 Federal Duck Stamp also are set up at the high school. New this year, patrons can vote for their favorite among the Maryland Duck Stamp artwork submissions.
The Festival continues Sunday with all galleries open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Diving Dogs go on from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at their new location outside the Easton Elks Lodge on Dutchmans Lane.
The Kids Fishing Derby, Fly Fishing Demonstrations and Retriever Demonstrations run periodically throughout the day at the Bay Street Ponds.
At Easton Middle School, activities for kids include a “Paint a Decoy” class; story times with author Marcia Moore; art activities with the Ward Museum; and outdoor live raptor, or “birds of prey,” demonstrations in the morning and afternoon.
The Wine, Beer and Tasting Pavilion on Harrison Street will be open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., and the “Festival Beer Wetland” Craft Beer Pub beside the Bullitt House on Dover Street will be open from noon to 4 p.m.
For event times, check out waterfowlfestival.org.
“Waterfowl never fails to amaze me,” Halpin said. “Dogs everywhere, people everywhere.”
“I think it continues to grow,” Paugh said.