The Ward Foundation will hold the Ward World Championship Wildfowl Carving Competition & Art Festival virtually this year on April 23-25, in lieu of the regular in-person event at the Ocean City Convention Center.
Since 1971, the event has attracted hundreds of carvers and thousands of spectators from all over the world. With large gatherings still limited in Maryland and international travel restricted for many countries, foundation officials said a “World Championship” just wouldn’t be the same without competitors and guests from around the world.
The event’s programming will be held across multiple platforms, including Facebook and YouTube.
“It was a difficult decision to make because the competition in Ocean City is sort of a home-away-from-home for the carvers,” said Rich Smoker, Chairman of the Ward Foundation and World Champion decoy maker.
“The Ward Foundation agreed that we would be unable to host the competition as planned, especially with our international friends unable to compete. The board of directors unanimously agreed virtually modifying the event was the best, and safest, thing to do.”
Over the course of three days, the Ward Foundation will host a line-up of virtual carving classes, workshops, demonstrations, and talks with world-renowned and award-winning artists. Those who attend the modified event will get to experience up close and personal tours of famous carvers’ workshops, receive an in-depth analysis of what judges look for in a Best in World carving, participate in live carving and critique sessions, and more.
The virtually modified Ward World Championship will also still have competitive components. Carvers from all over will be able to mail in carvings to compete in 12 unique categories that will be judged live, in-person at the Ward Museum.
In addition to all this, there will also be a Living Legend Award ceremony honoring wildfowl artists Larry Barth (Stahlstown, PA), Jett Brunet (Galiano, LA), and Dan Burgette (Tetonia, ID). The Living Legend Award recognizes individuals who have been long-time advocates for wildfowl art and the Ward Museum; who are generous in spirit and commitment to teaching others and passing on their knowledge, skills and talents; and who have created an impact on the field of wildfowl art and/or the Ward World Championship Wildfowl Carving Competition and Art Festival.
The Ward World Championship has long hosted the Benefit Art Auction, an auction of wildfowl art for amateur and veteran collectors alike. This auction, which supports the Ward Foundation—including efforts toward an in-person show in 2022 — is being moved to an online platform that will enable collectors and enthusiasts to bid on a variety of pieces from the comfort of their own home, all weekend long.
The Ward Museum’s executive director, Kristin Sullivan, said: “It’s incredibly disappointing to know we will not gather in person again this year; and we can’t wait to see everyone when we return to the in-person format in 2022. But I’m also excited to experience what’s possible in the new hybrid virtual/in-person format — bringing together carvers, artists, and friends in new ways. We’re looking forward to celebrating some of wildfowl art’s best, and having a lot of fun along the way. There will be a lot to see, do, and learn for novices to world champions, collectors, and folks curious about this unique and varied art form.”
Additional announcements about guest speakers, programming, and auction items for the modified Ward World Championship will be made in the coming weeks. Although the event will be happening primarily in a virtual setting, the Ward Foundation believes this year’s event will still capture the spirit and excitement of the historic competition.