EASTON — The Waterfowl Festival is in its 49th year upholding Eastern Shore tradition of paying homage to wildlife conservation throughout the region. Support from festival volunteers and organizers assure traditions remain while also introducing new activities this year.

For sporting fanatics, this year’s festival will feature a new partnership with the North American Diving Dogs at the Sportsman’s Pavilion at the Elks Lodge, as well as the usual Retriever and Fly Fishing demonstrations at the Bay Street Ponds.

Festival tickets are required to experience North American Diving Dogs (NADD) activities.

Guests may bring their own dogs to give them a chance to become a Diving Dog. “Try-its” are allowed as space and time permits during contests. Tickets can be used any day of competition. $10 purchases two “Try-it” tickets.

Learn more about NADD at northamericadivingdogs.com.

Competitors must check out the official NADD website for registration and rules.

Distance jumping will take place on Friday and Saturday at intervals from 10 a.m. through 4 p.m., and on Sunday from 10:30 a.m. through 2 p.m. Learn more at WaterfowlFestival.org/DivingDogs/.

Also new this year is a change in location for carvers at the Prager Family Auditorium on 17 S. Washington Street. Contemporary artwork presented by the carving exhibitors entails a full range of sculptures depicting waterfowl, songbirds and other wildlife. It will be open Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

In addition, discover many new fine artists and the Working Artists Forum at Art at the Library, a new Festival “gallery” at 100 W. Dover Street, behind the courthouse.

Also new this year is Wings Over America, a group that emerged from the Earth Conservation Corps in an effort to mentor at-risk teenagers through raptor rehabilitation and environmental education.

Several falconry experts and members of the education staff of Wings Over America will lead raptor demonstrations showcasing hunting and flight skills, set for 11:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday at Easton Middle School.

There are many other new sights to see and activities to do at the Chesapeake Marketplace at Easton Middle School, with 16 new exhibitors displaying hand-crafted jewelry and sea glass, driftwood sculptures, pottery and garden pavers, wall art, whirligigs and repurposed art, not to mention handcrafted caramels from YUMM!

Finally, the Waterfowl Festival now hosts the World Waterfowl Calling Championship contest, featuring some of the most-recognized custom callmakers from across the U.S.

Preliminary rounds will be held Friday and Saturday at Easton High School; admission is free. Finals will be held Saturday evening at 6 p.m.; the event is free with festival admission or $10 per person.

All callers on stage will showcase their abilities to operate a duck or goose call. There is also a new master of ceremonies, Outdoor Channel’s Chad Belding of “The Fowl Life.”

Nevada native Belding got hooked on hunting ducks after pursuing them as a kid with family and friends. He would ultimately turn that love of waterfowl hunting into his life’s work when he created Banded Nation after college, with help from key partners in the industry.

Judges evaluate three categories of duck and goose calls and one category of whistles based on 10 criteria, including fit (how they feel) and finish (how they look) and the most important criterion, the quality of their sound.

Visitors can check out the beauty and details of entrants’ calls all weekend in the Callmakers Tent at the Sportman’s Pavilion. Winners will be announced Saturday afternoon during the World Waterfowl Calling Contest.

To purchase festival tickets and view more information about the Waterfowl Festival, visit waterfowlfestival.org.

@Kayla_StarDem

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