Throughout the weekend, there will be nature activities for children and an opportunity for visitors to get close to geese, ducks, Chesapeake Bay life such as crabs and turtles, and raptors, including hawks and falcons that will demonstrate their own retrieving abilities at scheduled times.
The festival is also holding world and regional goose- and duck-calling championships.
Organizers have worked hard to make the festival more family-oriented and fun for kids, Price says. "The event is an opportunity to introduce children to the importance of conservation as well as ... to the concept of art," she says.
The whole town gets involved in making the festival a success. Officials close the streets so visitors can walk between venues and the town's shops and restaurants. Nonprofit groups set up stands to sell oyster stew, crab cakes and chicken barbecue.
Businesses in Easton and in nearby St. Michaels compete to create the best festival-themed displays in their windows and on their lawns. Besides trying for the prize, the businesses set the scene for the weekend with their efforts, says Sylvia J. Gannon, a 30-year volunteer who coordinates the contest.
The festival is a good stimulus for Easton and its businesses, adds Gannon, a lifelong Easton resident and businesswoman.
"The Waterfowl Festival has done a tremendous amount to put Easton on the map," she says.
"It brings in a lot of people, and people not exposed to the Eastern Shore," says Joan Crowley, volunteer chair of the art-exhibit space at the Elks Lodge.
"It's such a major community activity," Crowley says. "Fifteen hundred people volunteer to help."
Planning goes on year-round and a significant amount of logistical organization is needed to keep an expected 18,000 people moving all over a town that has a population around 10,000.
Parking is available, with free shuttles to most of the events. Art exhibits will be open all day and many activities and demonstrations will be repeated throughout the weekend.
Despite the large crowds, the festival still maintains the flavor of a small town and the beauty of the area, says Crowley, who is retired and lives in Easton.
Preserving the environment of the Eastern Shore is an important mission for the festival, which has donated more than $3.8 million of its profits to conservation projects over the years.
In 1999, more than $118,000 was donated to Ducks Unlimited, a national conservation organization, and to six Maryland organizations that preserve waterfowl habitats, encourage land stewardship and educate children about the importance of protecting wildlife.
Those conservation efforts are important to Rich Smoker, a waterfowl carver from Marion who says he is glad to see money donated at the national and local levels.
Smoker, who has exhibited at the festival for 16 years, calls it an ideal place to put his work before people with similar interests. And while the event is a kind of homecoming for many regulars, Smoker says he enjoys seeing people who attend for the first time.
"Lights go on in their eyes," he says.
What: Waterfowl Festival
Where: Venues throughout Easton
When: Tomorrow and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Admission: One day ticket: $10. Multiday ticket: $20. Children 12 and under are free when accompanied by an adult.
Call: 410-822-4567 or visit www.waterfowlfestival.org.
11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. - retriever demonstrations (repeated on following days)
10 a.m. and 2 p.m. - talk with Bart Walter, featured sculptor
4 p.m. - talk with Chet Reneson, featured artist
10 a.m. to 6 p.m. - kids' fishing derby (repeated on Sunday)
10:30 a.m., 3:00 p.m. - raptor demonstration
2 p.m. - decoy auction
7 p.m. -world championship goose- and Mason-Dixon regional duck-calling contests
Noon and 2 p.m. - fly-fishing demonstrations (also Friday and Saturday)
Noon, 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. -- photos with Webster the Goose
Art exhibits, nature activities and live wildlife demonstrations are continuous during festival hours. For a complete schedule, visit www.waterfowlfestival.org.