(April 24, 2015) Thousands of carvers, collectors and curious visitors will arrive in Ocean City this weekend for the 45th annual Ward World Championship Wildfowl Carving Competition and Art Festival hosted by Salisbury University.
More than 500 species of wildfowl will be represented, from interpretive pieces to decorative life-size species, with 1,500 carvings on display at the convention center on 40th Street.
“It’s an international event with the best carvers from all over the world,” said Lora Bottinelli, executive director of the Ward Museum. “It’s a lot of fun. When you add in all the events, it’s easy for people to get up close to the action.”
Anywhere from 800 to 1,000 carvers from the United States, Canada, Japan, England, Barbados and around the world will compete for ribbons, cash prizes, trophies and rings during this year’s competition, Bottinelli said.
“It is the highest level of achievement and a unique art experience,” she said. “Every year, the bar is raised and people are blown away with what they see.”
Artists of all levels, from youth to world champions, will compete for a share of nearly $60,000 in prize money with 200 cash prizes distributed throughout the event.
Functioning decoys, antiques and decorative art are a few of the many carvings seen in previous competitions and Bottinelli said there are always surprises.
An award ceremony will be held on Saturday at 5:30 p.m.
Vendors will be on hand for attendees who would like to take a piece of the festival home with items including paintings, photography, carvings, bronze sculptures, jewelry, carving supplies, home décor and folk art.
The Kid’s Corner will offer activities such as soap carving, painting miniature decoys, carving feathers with tools and lessons from a world champion carver.
Each year, the youth division participates in silhouette carving and 200 children in carving groups were tasked with the red-headed woodpecker.
“Carving groups from all over including Maryland and California helped all those birds come to Ocean City,” Bottinelli said.
The 200 red-headed woodpeckers will be on display this weekend and children can get started on carving next year’s silhouette, the laughing gull, at the Kids Corner.
“Hopefully, next year we will have 200 laughing gulls to display,” she added.
On Saturday, collectors will have the opportunity to bid on more than 60 original carvings donated by distinguished artists during a live auction. Bidders can start registering at noon and the action will begin at 2 p.m. in the Bayfront Ballroom of the convention center. Registration is free and there will be a cash bar.
Pieces include framed painting prints, autographed books and sketches, historical artifacts, antiques, sculptures and a bronze great blue herring head, Bottinelli said.
“It’s a great way to meet artists and buy a nice piece,” she added.
In addition to seeing works of art from the best wildfowl artists in the world, there will be educational classes and seminars going on all weekend including topics on interpretive art, a sunset boat trip and carving on Delmarva as an African-American, among a half-dozen more.
A paint party featuring the salty coast will take place on Sunday from 12-2 p.m. for $40 inside Dockside Hall, which overlooks the water.
For a full list of seminar topics and times or to register visit http://bit.ly/RsYo2a. Classes cost anywhere from $12-$15. Youth 17 and under receive free admission to seminars, Bottinelli said.
On Sunday, demonstrations with trained falcons, owls and raptures will take place off the deck of the convention center over the water.
The Ward World Championship attracts between 5,000 and 8,000 people each year, Bottinelli said.
“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,” she added. “We are really excited it’s going on during [Ocean City Spring] Restaurant Week and think it will be awesome for cross circulation.”
She said the event honors the Ward brother’s legacy, who were Eastern Shore decorative and decoy bird carving masters.
Admission to the World Championship costs $10 for a multi-day pass or $8 for seniors and students. Children under 12 get in free with an adult.
Visit the Ward World Championship Wildfowl Carving Competition and Art Festival today, Friday, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Roland E. Powell Convention Center on 40th Street.
Visit www.wardmuseum.org for more information or call 410-742-4988.