Each April, talented and accomplished decoy and decorative bird carvers from around the world flock to the Ocean City Convention Center for the annual Ward World Championship Wildfowl Carving Competition and Art Festival. Now in its 44th year, the Ward Museum of Wildfowl Art’s marquee event is the largest and most prestigious of its kind. The 2014 edition, which coincides with Delmarva Birding Weekend, goes down April 25-27, 2014 and promises an exciting weekend of art and activity in Ocean City.
The Ward Museum of Wildfowl Art, which is named after Lem and Steve Ward- brothers from Crisfield who are widely regarded as the Godfathers of bird carving- is a premier art facility and academic institution in Salisbury, Md. Maintained through a partnership between the Ward Foundation and Salisbury University, the Ward Museum aims to promote, preserve, and enhance the legacy of the Ward Brothers by educating the public about wildfowl art and examining the relationships between art, nature, and culture. To do so, the Ward Museum hosts numerous exhibits, events, seminars, and community outreach programs throughout the year, culminating each spring with the international Ward World Championship Carving Competition and Art Festival.
The roots of wildfowl art can be traced back over a century to watermen who crafted working decoys to attract birds during hunting trips; however, it was the work of Lem and Steve Ward that helped transition simple carving techniques into a fine art form. Known for their precision, meticulous detail, and authenticity, the Ward’s carvings remain the measuring stick by which all wildfowl art is still judged- making them true pioneers of a genre that has evolved incredibly over the last half century.
Present day wildfowl art exists in many different forms, from functional hunting decoys to decorative, life-like carvings, to interpretive sculptures. The 44th Annual Ward World Championship is expected to feature upwards of 1200 unique carvings and other artistic pieces of over 150 species from around the globe. All skill levels will be represented, from youth to world champion, as artists compete in 39 divisions across many different carving categories- including, but not limited to, decorative life-size, miniature, floating, interpretive, gunning decoy, and sculpture- for a chance to take home a share of the $60,000 prize pool, as well as ribbons, plaques, trophies, and, perhaps most importantly, bragging rights.
Not only does the Ward World Championship Wildfowl Carving Competition and Art Festival display and pay homage to the world’s best wildfowl art and artists, but also gives carvers, art lovers, bird enthusiasts, and casual observers the opportunity to attend seminars and instructional classes taught by master carvers, shop for fine art, photography, jewelry, home decorations, accessories, and supplies, watch live bird demonstrations put on by Skyhunters in Flight, cruise the bay at dusk for a sunset look at birds, ponies, and other wildlife, and keep the kids entertained with hands-on craft projects.
Multiday tickets to the Ward World Championships are only $10 with discounts available for seniors, students, and groups, as well as free admission for children 12 and under.
To illustrate the impressive skill and artistry on display at the Ward World Championship, we leave you with images of entries from the last year’s competition (all photos courtesy of wardmuseum.org):