EASTON — Temperatures were a bit more balmy for the third day of the 49th annual Waterfowl Festival, and visitors wore light jackets or vests on Sunday, Nov. 10, to watch the final rounds of North American Diving Dogs, sip adult beverages in the Elks tent or go inside to finish off the rest of the fried oysters and crab cakes.
Both volunteers and Festival-goers seemed pleased with the venue’s attractions and culinary offerings.
Elks Exalted Ruler Dave Tyler of Easton quipped that he was the “exhausted ruler” Sunday afternoon. He managed 40 to 50 volunteers this year, “young and old, from kids earning service learning hours to older people who just want to help out and be a part of it.”
“It’s been a great year for us,” Tyler said, citing the weather, the additional attractions, more vendors and more opportunities. “The Diving Dogs was a great addition here. Everything came together to make it a great year.”
“It’ll be a record year for us,” Tyler said. Receipts will “definitely be up from last year.”
The more the vendors made, the more Waterfowl Chesapeake benefitted by receiving a percentage of each purchase.
“The Bloody Mary Bar was a really big hit,” said Elks Lodge member Jeff Bell of Easton. “We had a lot of fun with it.”
The first-year bar featured about a dozen items, from Old Bay to pickles and more.
“Business has been wonderful this year,” Bell said. “We sold a whole lot of oysters on the half-shell, mimosas in the morning and a full line of seafood inside.” Patrons were able to “roam anywhere on the grounds” with food and drink.
“Yesterday, we were incredibly crowded,” Bell said.
“We made over 850 crabcakes for the weekend, and they’re all sold out,” Tyler said at 2 p.m., adding that it was the most popular item on the menu. “So next year, we’ll have a goal of 1,000.”
Tyler said he and other vendors he had spoken to hoped Diving Dogs would return next year. “But I have spoken to someone at (Easton) Middle School who said his sales were down, so we might have to look into adjusting that or combining it. That’s really more of a Waterfowl thing.”
In past years, North American Diving Dogs, formerly Dock Dogs, competed at the middle school on Peachblossom Road.
“Having the dogs helped,” said Elks member Glenn Dyott of Trappe.
Diving Dogs dock operator Jason Rigler of St. Louis, Mo., was impressed with the “massive” attendance. “This was the perfect location.”
Stadium seats were set up for the competition, but spectators lined the large pool to watch the pooches splash and entertain the crowd with their prowess — or hesitation — that finally resulted in a plunge and a corresponding ovation.
Wearing his camo cap and vest, young Corey Gibson of Belair tested his new duck calls as he headed across the grounds. He and his brother Ryan and Dad Warren took in the waterfowl calling contests and Buy, Sell, Swap at nearby Easton High School.
“I’ve been coming here for forever — since I was in diapers,” said 20-year-old Ryan Gibson. He said he likes everything about the festival.
“This is the best event Easton does,” said Easton native Clark Higgins, who came up from Salisbury University, where he majors in business administration.
“It’s great for the economy, and it’s great for the town itself,” Higgins said. “People come all the way from Maine and Florida just to partake in the festivities.”