As autumn touches the Eastern Shore of Maryland, skies darken with wild geese, ducks and other waterfowl wending their way south to winter quarters. The fall migration brings an influx of sportsmen, bird-watchers and naturalists to the shore. Another boon to tourism here is the annual three-day Waterfowl Festival, which draws more than 20,000 visitors to Easton. The festival marks its 21st anniversary from Friday to next Sunday.
The old Colonial capital will take on a festive atmosphere as shops and homes are decked out for fall and street-corner vendors offer hot apple cider for sale. Free shuttle busses are available to transport visitors between exhibits and to the outlying parking areas.
The festival showcases the work of some of the world's best wildlife artists, woodcarvers and sculptors. More than 500 exhibitors from all over the country and Canada will be on hand to exhibit and sell their work. Prices range from $25 for prints up to $50,000 for carvings and paintings. You'll find artwork with price tags upwards of $700 in the Tidewater Inn's Gold Room. Less expensive original works (under $695) can be found in the Blue Room at the B.P.O.E. Elks Club.
One popular event is the auction of antique and contemporary decoys on Saturday at 2 p.m. in the Easton High School auditorium. That evening the auditorium will be filled for the World Championship Goose Calling Contest and the Mason-Dixon Regional Duck Calling Contest at 7 p.m.
Other attractions are workshops where visitors can watch craftsmen at work; a Buy, Sell and Swap Shop for collectors of antique decoys and waterfowl-related memorabilia; and a series of lectures and seminars on wildlife art Friday and Saturday at the Avalon Theatre.
Retriever demonstrations will be held at the ponds on Bay Street Friday and Saturday at 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. and on Sunday at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. There's also a new event, a demonstration of sporting clays (a form of skeet shooting) by the British champion at the Talbot Rod & Gun Club on Sunday at 10 a.m. Ticket holders will be admitted to the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum, which will offer waterfowl demonstrations Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and to an exhibition of outstanding wildlife and sporting art at the Academy of the Arts in Easton.
Festival hours are 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. Admission is $8 for one day, $14 for two days, $18 for three days. Children 14 and under, accompanied by an adult, will be admitted free. Proceeds will benefit selected organizations dedicated to preserving waterfowl populations.
For information, call (301) 822-4567.
For those hoping to get a head start on their Christmas shopping here are two events that may be of interest. The annual International Gift Festival will attract shoppers from several states to the Mennonite Church in Fairfield, Pa., from Thursday to Saturday.
For 30 years the festival has provided a market for artisans in Third World countries. During the three-day sale the church is transformed into an international bazaar with handicrafts from more than 30 countries in Central and South America, Asia and Africa. At this year's bazaar you'll find over 1,000 kinds of traditional handicraft, such as carved wooden giraffes from Kenya, Christmas ornaments from Thailand, native paintings from Haiti and a fine sellection of alpaca and wool sweaters from Peru and Ecuador. And you'll find these items priced far below the usual retail cost.
Hours are 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday and Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday. The church is on Main Street (Route 116) in Fairfield, eight miles west of Gettysburg, Pa.
For information, call (717) 642-5440 until Nov. 7 or (717) 642-8936 during festival week.
The other event takes you into Virginia Hunt Country and the Christmas Shop in Middleburg. The shop brings more than 35 dealers from all over the United States together from Thursday to Saturday to sell their elegant and often unique merchandise, from art and antiques to clothing and jewelry as well as a wide assortment of accessories for the home and personal use.
The shop is located in the parish house of Emmanuel Episcopal Church, 105 E. Washington St., and is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day. You'll find personalized pottery, equestrian gifts, children's furniture with animal designs, collectible Santas, antique jewelry and a whole array of gourmet foods. The Christmas Shop cafe will serve lunch each day.
Admission is $1 for adults, which includes a chance to win an original painting. Proceeds will be used to benefit diocesan outreach programs and local charities. For information, call (703) 687-6297.
If your interest is crafts, a trip to Philadelphia may be in order. The 15th annual Philadelphia Craft Show, which is considered the finest exhibition and sale of American crafts in the United States, will be held Thursday to next Sunday at the Philadelphia Civic Center.