The Core Sound Decoy Carvers Guild is dedicated to the preservation of the waterfowl carving heritage that runs deep throughout the Core Sound area, and the first full weekend in December, decoy lovers from all over travel to Harkers Island for the Core Sound Decoy Festival.
It is held in conjunction with Waterfowl Weekend, which takes place Friday-Sunday, Dec. 6-8 at the Core Sound Waterfowl Museum and Heritage Center.
The festival is in its 32nd year and is held this year Saturday-Sunday.
Jerry Talton, vice president of the carvers guild, said the overall layout of the festival hasn’t changed for the coming event.
“It is basically the same. We try to maintain the same formula,” he said. “Back when the guild first started, the four or five guys who were the driving force behind the show, they drove all over the country attending different festivals and tried to figure out the best parts of the show and tried to bring them all together.”
Though the formula of the show has remained the same over the past 32 years, Mr. Talton said the feel of the decoy festival is as new and exciting as the first year.
The festival has many attractions, including antique decoy exhibits, retriever demonstrations, competitions like duck- and loon-calling, head-whittling and live and silent auctions.
Harkers Island Elementary School staff and volunteers offer food, and different vendors will supply shopping opportunities.
“The food is always good. (The) staff of Harkers Island Elementary always does a good job with the food,” Mr. Talton said.
He noted the festival’s attractions draw many visitors to the school.
“There is the kids’ decoys painting event. It’s become quite a tradition really,” he said. “There are a lot of people who come in with their children who have painted decoys when they were kids.”
He said the retriever demonstration is another crowd favorite.
“Weller Kennels from New Bern does a retriever demonstration out on the ballfield at different times throughout the festival,” Mr. Talton said. “That’s another thing that people just love.”
The guild representative said the demonstrations are done in all weather and a bit of cold doesn’t stop spectators from watching the hunting dogs.
“It always amazes me when I walk out there and see 40 or 50 people out there in the freezing cold,” he said. “I take it for granted as a duck hunter, but it’s something a lot of people don’t get to see on a regular basis.”
Sunday is the festival’s Youth Day, where all visitors under the age of 18 are admitted for free. Upon entry, each child will receive their ticket for the afternoon drawing and a chance to receive a variety of door prizes.
During Youth Day, children will also be able to participate in Kids Decoy Painting and try their hand at archery under the guidance of experienced archers.
Those who attend the festival will also be able to view this year’s featured decoy and poster.
“This year’s feature decoy is a harlequin duck. The featured carver is Dr. Stan Rule from Beaufort,” Mr. Talton said. “Walter Brother Gaskill won (the) art contest for the poster. It looks awesome. It looks awesome on the T-shirts. We are going to have the prettiest shirt that we’ve had in a while. It’s such a colorful duck,” he continued.
Mr. Talton said the festival acts as a connection to the art of decoy carving and its importance to the community.
“I think its a link to the past. In the mid (to) late 80s, decoy carving as an art form and as a tradition we’re pretty much going away,” he said. “The seven founding members of the guild wanted to find a way to preserve and pass it along. I don’t think they intended to create the tradition and legacy that they did, but it’s really special to be a part of.”
Admission is $8 daily, and children under the age of 12 are free. Sunday is Youth Day, with all children under the age of 18 admitted for free.