In 1970 a group of sportsmen and women came together over their shared love of the Eastern Shore, its traditions, and the need to conserve wildlife essential to the Shore way of life. From that collaboration, the first Waterfowl Festival was born in Easton, Md. in November 1971. This year from Nov. 12–14 the festival celebrates the 50th year of what organizers call “the best party on the Eastern Shore.”
Each year the festival has lived up to its reputation. On those sunny, crisp fall weekend days (and even those few that have been gray), the Talbot County town is full of locals and visitors, art lovers, outdoor enthusiasts, and anyone who appreciates why the Shore is considered The Land of Pleasant Living. Downtown and around town there are art galleries, Eastern Shore food and drink, a sportsman’s party, duck calling, dog diving, and the opportunity to begin early holiday shopping.
The festival’s 50th anniversary was meant to be celebrated last year, but organizers were forced to postpone due to the difficulty of “social distancing” at a big event in a small town. Easton and Talbot County rely on Waterfowl weekend for big tourism boost.In 2019, Waterfowl Festival visitors generated almost $2.6 million in annual economic impact to the county through shopping, lodging and travel, according to an economic impact study ordered by the festival.
In the Sportsmans Pavilion at the Easton Elks Club, outdoor enthusiasts will find outdoor gear and apparel, charter information, duck calls, pet supplies, wood crafts, taxidermy services, and a chance to connect with representatives of the Maryland Watermen’s Association. On Saturday evening, the Sportsman’s Party promises food, drinks, live music, raffle prizes. For lovers of sporting dogs, North American Diving Dogs and retriever demonstrations are a favorite on the festival schedule.
As always, there’ll be an abundant variety of food choices. Look for perennial favorite Shore Boys Cream of Crab soup on North Harrison Street. At the Tasting Pavilion enjoy selections from local wineries and breweries and gourmet items from regional food producers. On the Christ Church campus, crabcakes, fried oyster fritters, cream of crab soup and dessert will be on sale. It’s good food for a worthy cause. A portion of each sale goes back into the community. Giving back is a practice followed by each official Waterfowl Festival food vendor.
CBM is a proud sponsor of the “Beer Wetland”, offering live music, craft beer and yard games at 102 E. Dover Street on Saturday and Sunday afternoon. You can pay per pour for craft beers from three Maryland breweries: Ten Eyck, Cult Classic and Big Truck Brewery.
Art is as much a part of the festival as the waterfowl for which it’s named. The work of artists, photographers, sculptors, decoy carvers, and mosaic makers will be on display through Easton—from Christ Church to the Academy Art Museum, the historic Avalon Theatre, and the many galleries located in the heart of downtown. At Easton Middle School art by members of the Working Artists Forum will be displayed. The school is also the site of The Marketplace, a place to shop for Festival memorabilia and one-of-a-kind handmade gifts created by local artisans.
This year two new options have been added to the Waterfowl Festival experience. Through a collaboration with Delmarva Birding Weekends and Harriet Tubman Tours, there’ll be opportunities to birdwatch along the Harriet Tubman Underground Byway. And to make the Festival experience easier, organizers have created an app that provides information at your fingertips.
At any time of year, “Easton is a feeling.” Waterfowl Festival weekend is that feeling many times over. Come to town and experience it for yourself.
For more information on tickets, schedules, exhibits, COVID-19 mitigations, the Festival app, and how to get around, visit waterfowlfestival.org.