Decoy Weekend

Corey Lawrence, second from right, and his three sons, left to right, Bray, David and Will, carve decoys in “David’s Room,” named for Lawrence’s father at the Core Sound Waterfowl Museum and Heritage Center. (Sarah K. Photography photo)

HARKERS ISLAND —The coronavirus pandemic has altered many events in 2020, and it’s no different for the Core Sound Waterfowl Museum and Heritage Center.

The organization plans on holding its annual Waterfowl Weekend on Dec. 4-6. It just won’t look the same as it has in previous years. While the accompanying Core Sound Decoy Festival will still be held, protocols eliminate Harkers Island Elementary School as the traditional host.

“We’ve been doing this for 33 years, and we can’t let it go,” Museum Executive Director Karen Amspacher said. “We’re just programed for it. It will go on. We didn’t want to cancel it. We’ll figure it out. It will just look a little bit different, but hasn’t everything? Why should we be different?”

Despite the longtime convenient location being taken out of the mix, decoys will still be front and center all over Harkers Island during the weekend.

It will continue with decoy carvers, collectors, artists and crafters tail-gating on the grounds surrounding the museum. Many of the festival’s favorite carvers will be tailgating at the museum, continuing a tradition that now stretches across generations.

Tailgating could also be possible in front yards and church parking lots.

“The best part of the whole weekend to me, and I suspect for many others, has always been about seeing old friends,” said Corey Lawrence, carver, artist and museum board vice president. “I can’t think of anywhere else I’d rather be, or anything else I’d rather do, than spend a little time with like-minded folks enjoying the time-honored tradition of waterfowling on Core Sound.”

Amspacher estimated there are usually 3,000 visitors at the Harkers Island Elementary School during most years, taking in the sights of more than 100 exhibitors. Getting a tent, even if it is outdoors, also wouldn’t work with social distancing recommended.

“It’s been very complicated,” Amspacher said. “We’ll do all we can. We’ll have a thermometer to take people’s temperatures, we’ll beg people to wear masks and try and keep them from hugging everybody they see. We are going to be as careful as we can. We just have to try and have to hope and believe.”

Canceling the event would be a heartbreaker for an organization that counts on the Waterfowl Weekend to net more than $100,000. A third of the budget for the museum is provided by events, and all but one has been canceled this year.

“We have six to eight events a year,” Amspacher said. “We had five events for April when we were supposed to open, and they all got wiped out. I’ve been worried about December since the lockdown. People depend on that weekend. That is Christmas money.”

Amspacher said she was seriously concerned about this year’s event during the summer when the 50th annual Waterfowl Festival in Easton, Md. was canceled for the first time in its history. The Waterfowl Festival, which draws more than 15,000 people and generates more than $2.5 million for the area, will move its 50th annual event to November 2021.

The Core Sound Waterfowl Weekend isn’t only the biggest fundraiser of the year for the museum, while also providing a major economic impact for Harkers Island, it also acts as a homecoming.

“I envision this year as a tailgating party will be somewhat different than years before, but improvising is one of the truest and most defining traits of a Core Sounder, so we’ll do the best we can,” Lawrence said. “It seems 2020 has taken so much away from us, I’m not ready to let it take the best weekend of our whole year away.”

The Carolina Decoy Collectors Association will bring its exhibition and competition for vintage North Carolina decoys to the museum starting Friday, Dec. 4, with old-bird dealers on hand to sell, swap and trade.

The Core Sound Museum 2020 Heritage Auction will be online with the decoys on display at the museum throughout the weekend. The working decoys of Henry Murphy, Ammie Paul, Elmer Salter, Eldon Willis, Julian Hamilton, Judge Lambert Morris and many others of Core Sound’s finest carvers will be there.

The museum will host for the first time ever a gallery of trees celebrating the traditions, communities and special events of the region with decorated crab pot trees nestled in exhibitions that have been in storage for two years while the museum rebuilt after Hurricane Florence.

The Store at the Museum will be located inside and outside featuring crab pot trees, Christmas collectibles and the island anchor that has become a new Christmas must-have. The Core Sound Quilters will be drawing for their 2020 creation, “A New Day,” and the food options will include scallop fritters, fried shrimp and sweet puppies.

The Core Sound Waterfowl Museum Heritage Center is located at 1785 Island Road, Harkers Island. The Core Sound Museum Store has its downtown location at 806 Arendell Street, Morehead City.

For more information on Waterfowl Weekend, including how to make your tailgating reservation, call 252-728-1500 or email

For a full listing of Core Sound Christmas events, visit

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