OCEAN CITY — Each year the Ward Museum of Wildfowl Art, Salisbury University, plays host to the Ward World Championship Wildfowl Carving Competition and Art Festival, which brings talented artists from across the United States, Canada, Europe and Asia to Ocean City, allowing them to showcase their carving talent.
This year’s event will be held at the Roland E. Powell Convention Center on April 25-27. The wildfowl carvings range from highly decorative works of art to functional hunting decoys. These spectacular sculptures, coveted by celebrities and avid collectors alike, mimic wildfowl species such as red tail hawks, bald eagles, saw whet owls, wood ducks and thousands of other species from around the world.
On display will be more than 1,400 wildfowl carvings by artists representing all levels of experience — from youth to world champions — with each competing for a share of nearly $60,000 in cash and prizes at what is recognized as the world’s largest and most prestigious event of its kind. Since the first competition, more than four decades ago, the World Championship has awarded carvers with over $2.5 million in prize money. Anyone attending the show has a chance not only to see these intricately detailed works of art but also to learn about the different bird species through the carvers’ interpretation of nature.
“You will have a chance to enjoy the beauty of many of the more than 600 bird species in the United States, in addition to species from around the globe,” said Lora Bottinelli, executive director of the Ward Museum. “For anyone who adores nature, enjoys birds and has an appreciation for fine art, the World Championship is the place to be to experience the best wildfowl art the world has to offer.”
Back by popular demand is Skyhunters in Flight, a demonstration of the ancient art of falconry, with master falconer Brian Bradley on Sunday, April 27. Bradley will present an educational lecture with live birds on display, followed by free flight demonstrations with a variety of raptors from around the world. Audience members will have the opportunity to witness a hawk and falcon sharpen their hunting skills while experiencing the silent flight of an owl. They also learn about the raptors’ many adaptations for survival and the vital role they play at the top of the food chain in their environment.
Educational classes, seminars and demonstrations by master carvers gives visitors the chance to learn the ins and outs of wildfowl carving from those responsible for helping the art form evolve to the level it is at today. Activities for children are plentiful at the Kids Corner, where children can create soap carvings, carve feathers using power tools, and receive instruction from a world champion carver and decoy painter. For those wishing to take in nature’s local bounty, outdoor activities will include an early morning bird-watching excursion to Assateague Island and a sunset cruise on Sinepuxent Bay.
Saturday’s live auction provides a chance to bid on original works of art by top artists from around the world. A preview of items is available online at www.wardmuseum.org. A silent auction for the two winning carvings from the Champagne Waterfowl and Champagne Waterfowl Champion divisions also is scheduled. Additionally, visitors may purchase carvings directly from the artists at the Carvers Art Shop.
Show hours are 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Friday, April 25, and 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday, April 26, with the awards ceremony beginning at 5:30 p.m. On Sunday, April 27, show hours are 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Tickets are $10 for adults, $8 for seniors and students. Children under 12 are admitted free when accompanied by a paying adult.