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World’s best carvers gather in OC

(April 25, 2014) Carvers, collectors and visitors will gather by the thousands this weekend as the world’s best woodcarvers flock to Ocean City for the 44th annual Ward World Championship Wildfowl Carving Competition and Art Festival.

Fred Negrijn of Exeter, Ontario, studies the lifesize great blue heron carved by Gary Eigenberger of Green Bay, Wis. during the 43rd annual Ward World Wildfowl Carving Competition and Art Festival last year

From decorative art to functional decoys, almost 1,200 carvings of more than 150 species of wildfowl will be on display at the 40th Street convention center during the competition.

“You really have an opportunity with these carvers to see species of birds you’d never see in your lifetime,” said Eric Turner, director of special events at the Ward Museum in Salisbury. “The detail on them – these birds – is amazing.”

Around 600 carvers the United States, Canada and around the world will compete for cash prizes, ribbons and trophies at this year’s competition, Turner said, but the biggest win at stake is the reputation that comes with an award.

“Part of it is just the prestige of being named the top in the world. It helps them in the future for getting commissions,” he said.

Competitors of all levels, from youth to world champions, will battle for $60,000 in prize money spread across 39 divisions, from life-size wildfowl to gunning decoys, contemporary antiques and more.

For those who want to take home a piece of the festival, vendors will be on site offering art, home décor, photography, jewelry, carving supplies and other goods.

Kids of all ages can enjoy activities such as painting miniature decoys, soap carving and other arts and crafts at the Kid’s Corner.

On Saturday, collectors have the chance to take home one of more than 60 carvings donated by artists during a live auction. Bidders must register from 12-2 p.m. for the event taking place from 2-5 p.m. in the Bayfront Ballroom of the convention center. There will be a cash bar and registration is free for the event.

On Sunday, master falconer Brian Bradley will bring his hawks, owls and falcons to give love demonstrations during his Skyhunters In Flight program at 11 a.m. and again at 2 p.m.

In addition to seeing works by the top wildfowl artist across the globe, there will be classes throughout the weekend on topics such as sketching and clay modeling, airbrushing, youth carving and more. Visitors can register for them onsite Friday morning before the judging begins for about $15 per class, Turner said. Visit http://bit.ly/RsYo2a for a full list of seminar topics and times.

Each year the Ward World Championship draws between 5,000 and 6,000 members of the public, Turner said.

“There’s a variety of different reasons for people to come out. We have a lot of people with, obviously, an interest in birds, whether it’s waterfowl, wading birds or raptors,” he said. “It’s all outdoors and bird related.”

Other comes to see the master falconer or to witness “a level of woodworking they never have before,” Turner said.

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 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Roland E. Powell Convention Center on 40th Street.

Visit www.wardmuseum.org for more information.

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