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After a year’s Covid-related hiatus, the third annual Ocracoke Waterfowl Festival, produced by the Ocracoke Island Decoy Carvers Guild, is set to take place Saturday, April 17 9 am to 5 pm.
Unlike the first two events that took place at the Ocracoke School gym, this year it will be on the Berkeley Manor grounds and inside the barn.
“We want to make sure that we still be respectful of all the state, federal, different guidelines,” said the Guild’s president John Simpson. “There is plenty of space on the grounds and in the open-air barn for safe distancing, and we ask that all be respectful by wearing masks. We have a lot of older folks that will be exhibiting.”
This year’s featured carver will be William Nathan Spencer. He chose the Ring-necked Duck, which nests in freshwater marshes and bogs across the boreal forests of northern North America and which winters in small numbers on the Outer Banks.
More than 20 exhibiters will be hand to sell and display their works. Former featured carvers Dave O’Neal and Dan Robinson will be there, and legendary Carver Oliver Larson from Crisfield, Maryland, and Casey Arthur from Carteret County will be back.
Founded in January 2018, the Ocracoke Island Duck Carvers Guild organized the first waterfowl festival that April and again in 2019. Both well-attended events were held in the Ocracoke School gym. Hurricane Dorian in September 2019 caused so much damage to the school that it and the gym are not expected to be rebuilt until 2022.
Despite recent loosening of some COVID-19 restrictions, Simpson cautioned that should there be a resurgence of the pandemic, the festival would follow state guidelines and cancel if ordered to do so.
Several islanders, including Simpson, brothers Vince O’Neal and Dave O’Neal, dad and son Dan and Scotty Robinson, Trudy Austin and Stephanie O’Neal, formed the guild to preserve Ocracoke’s long, rich tradition of decoy carving.
“Waterfowling has been a dramatic part of Ocracoke’s heritage and this folk art needs to be kept from becoming a lost art,” Simpson said at the time.
The Guild has monthly meetings, 7 p.m. on the first Thursday of the month in the Community Center. All are welcome to attend.
Folks can bring decoys to the meeting to discuss including ones that aren’t signed since decoy sleuthing is a welcomed challenge by the members.