A beautiful day dawned as Kim and I anticipated attending the 30th Annual Core Sound Decoy Festival in Harkers Island, NC.
Anyone who's ever visited us immediately notices our obsession collection of carved decoys and shorebirds.
We bought our first decoy in the summer of 1987, a large Canadian goose hand-carved by Curt Salter, that we found in an old grocery store-turned-flea market shop while meandering through Harkers Island. That goose cost $75, a HUGE amount of money for us at the time, especially to spend on a rustic wooden bird that really had no practical use. We had no place to fit it in our van, already packed with 3 children under the age of 5 plus the 2 of us (and me being 4 months pregnant) and all of our luggage and gear for our yearly beach vacation. But we purchased that goose and it rode on my lap all the way home from North Carolina to Indiana and has enjoyed a prominent display space in all three of our homes. It was (and still is!) a prized possession. And so far has weathered the antics of 4 rowdy children and now 8 perfectly-behaved :) grandchildren.
Each summer thereafter, we'd take a day during our beach vacation to drive to Harkers Island, and always came home with a few birds.
It wasn't until December 1996 that we attended our very first decoy festival, the 9th Annual Core Sound Decoy Festival. And since then, more Decembers than not, we've headed Down East North Carolina for the weekend event.
Our collection now numbers about 120 decoys and shorebirds, give or take a few...
Harkers Island is a small fishing village, not a place that normally draws regular tourists. The main occupations on the island are ship-building and fishing, a tiny population of outdoorsy people who love to hunt and spend more time on their boats than in their mostly modest homes.
The decoy festival has really opened the doors of the outside world to this hidden sleepy fishing town, drawing hundreds if not thousands of like-minded people each year.
The main event is held at the island's elementary school....
...where the gym and many of the classrooms are filled with decoy-making and related vendors from all over the country.
It truly is a community event, and the school takes off the Friday before to get ready. I love how the walls are filled with kids' drawings about the festival!
Over the years, the festival's popularity put Harkers Island on the map, and the community built a big beautiful waterfowl museum...
...and the event spread to the end of the island, with more vendors, lots of historical displays, and demonstrations.
One of the world's largest crab pot Christmas trees welcomes guests!
The event was the brainstorm of these 7 original Harkers Island native carvers 30 years ago, who formed a guild in 1987 and planned the inaugural festival for December 1988.
Only three are still living. I have multiple decoys carved by the four who have passed on, and I'm quite sure the decoys' worth has doubled or tripled since their carvers' deaths. Besides our home, the decoys are the only possessions presently listed in our will...we've got a small fortune in wooden birds. I've told my kids NOT to build a big bird bonfire when we've gone home to Heaven...I know they don't share our love for the decoys, and that's perfectly okay, but there are collector folks who will pay a pretty penny for those birds!
Across Core Sound, Cape Lookout lighthouse stands sentinel...
As we were leaving the museum, the rain began. Nothing hard, just gentle and wet enough to be aggravating. Normally we would go back to the school for the traditional lunch of shrimp burgers, banana pudding, and hot fudge sundaes, but since it was raining and parking is tight we decided to head off the island for lunch.
The big new bridge just outside of Beaufort is nearly finished...
...and will soon replace the drawbridge that's been there since I can remember. Kinda sad, really, as I love the drawbridge....but Progress marches on.
We tried a new lunch spot in Morehead City...delish!
Back at the hotel, I couldn't wait to get out my new finds and oogle over them again. Another wonderful day...
...at the 30th Core Sound Decoy Festival.