EASTON — Planning for the 50th Waterfowl Festival in November is in full gear after the big event was canceled last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Margaret Enloe, executive director of Waterfowl Chesapeake which puts on the popular festival in Easton, said a team of approximately 80 staff, volunteers and board members are working on plans for the 2021 event.

The planning efforts include inviting artists, craftsmen and vendors as well as starting to figure out logistics and protocols for a 2021 event. Enloe said all this is being done in the backdrop of the cancelation of the 2020 festival and an improving but still very fluid situation this year with the coronavirus pandemic and vaccination efforts.

The 2021 Waterfowl Festival is scheduled for Nov. 12 to 14.

The event is one of the largest events on the Eastern Shore and celebrates the region’s cultural, natural, recreational and artistic connections to birds and waterfowl.The Easton event usually attracts 15,000 attendees to the Shore and has an economic impact of $2.6 million, according to a report released in January by Rockport Analytics.

Enloe said the 2021 event could attract even more visitors and spending if the COVID situation continues to improve and pent-up tourism demand is rebounding in November. She said event attendees are very loyal and enthusiastic about attending the event.

Enloe also said health safety is a top priority festival organizers are navigating. “Regardless of any state mandates, all of our people need to feel safe. That includes our volunteers, our guests and our artists,” she said.

Planning for the 2021 event began this month including with a focus on logistics and potential social distancing needs.

“Many people don’t realize that planning for the Waterfowl Festival is a year-long endeavor so as of now we are counting on being able to celebrate our 50th this fall — albeit with some changes for the safety designed to protect our artists, exhibitors, volunteer and the entire community,” said Waterfowl Board President Kevin Greaney. “Most importantly we’re planning to celebrate our history, heritage, art and culture as a community again.”

Waterfowl Chesapeake, the parent nonprofit of the festival, was awarded two forgivable PPP (Payroll Protection Program) loans that were part of the 2020 CARES Act.

The federal help helped the Waterfowl group maintain its staff and work toward the 2021 event.

The Easton-based group has launched a virtual gallery to help artists impacted by the pandemic and canceled events. The gallery has generated $40,000 in arts sales since opening online in November. The gallery will be open until the end of April.

“By engaging our art buyers online and providing an exciting virtual experience for art collectors, we have kept the festival in the hearts and minds of our collectors and fans,” said Greaney. “We hope this momentum and online sales keeps us moving forward toward a terrific 50th Festival in the fall where all our fantastic art can be enjoyed in person.”

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