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15th annual Core Sound Decoy Festival
Harkers Island, North Carolina
December 7-8, 2002

Two days before the 15th annual Core Sound Decoy Festival, held on Harkers Island, North Carolina, a devastating ice storm swept through central North Carolina, leaving well over a million residents from Charlotte to Raleigh without power. Fortunately the eastern part of the state was spared, but the temperature was cold nonetheless and the traffic was somewhat curtailed by the weather.

The Core Sound Decoy Festival, sponsored by the Core Sound Carvers Guild, is held at the local elementary school on the island on Saturday and Sunday. At the same time, the Core Sound Waterfowl Weekend, sponsored by the new Decoy Museum, is held on their grounds just down the road. Additionally, the Core Sound Carvers Guild holds a one-day decoy auction on Saturday at the Guild headquarters located just off the island. While it does appear that the competing events splinter both the exhibitors and the attendance, it does provide variety for those who show up for the weekend.

The crowd at the high school always lines up for the opening on Saturday morning and this year was no different. Most of the exhibitors tend to offer contemporary Core Sound decoys for sale, but there is also a spattering of dealers selling old birds, primarily from North Carolina and the Eastern Shore of Virginia. This year's artifacts display included decoys from the collections of Louis Daniels, Jack Dudley and Earl Noe, among others.

There were over 200 decoys in the Guild's auction this year and the auctioneering duties were split between D.C. North and Larry Carter. There were a few neat North Carolina brant decoys in this year's offering plus two of the nicest Miles Hancock miniatures - an early hooded merganser and red-breasted merganser - that I've ever seen. They were cataloged as the work of J. Austin in the style of Miles Hancock. They sure looked like Hancocks to me. Dick McIntyre and Ron Davis were among the dealers selling old birds outside the auction.

By Sunday the weather had started to break and more and more North Carolina residents had their power restored. The crowd was a bit slower than in most years, but there was a steady trickle of business throughout the day. Some years it’s hot, some years it’s cold, and some years the wind keeps on blowing, but regardless of the elements, the Core Sound Decoy Festival is the number one decoy show in the state of North Carolina. See you next year!

Milwaukee Decoy & Sporting
Collectibles Show

Milwaukee, Wisconsin
December 5-7, 2002

Show organizer Bob Bradley continued experimenting with publicity this year. Most prominent was a changing exhibit of decoys at the Wisconsin Antique Dealers Association (WADA) antique show at State Fair Park in early October 2002. WADA advertising encouraged visitors to bring in old decoys for identification, and flyers for the decoy show were handed out over three days. Another exhibit of old decoys, publicized at the antique show and in other advertising, was held during the decoy show.

One of the high points of every year's show is the auction, held Friday night. Bob Bradley reported the star decoy this year was a Mason Challenge bluebill, which sold for $1800, and that the auction grossed $17,000.

The much anticipated duck skiff once owned by Milwaukee artist and decoy maker Owen Gromme proved a disappointment to some when seen "in the flesh." Most potential bidders decided that while Gromme used it, he almost certainly didn't make it: the craftsmanship just wasn't up to what people expect in Gromme's work. Grouped with a framed print of a Gromme oil painting depicting the boat pulled up on shore with a black Labrador and two dead Canada geese, it bought in at $400.

The story went around that when Gromme was commissioned to make the original painting, he told the buyer that he had to provide a fresh goose as a model. After Gromme quickly drew it, he and his wife had it for dinner that night.

The show was held at the Manchester East Hotel in Glendale. Thursday featured a room to room walk around, with tables set up in the motel atrium on Friday and Saturday.

Sales reports for the show were mixed, with some saying they had "fantastic" sales, while others had little luck. Apparently those who had fresh material priced to sell did fine.

- Tom Bosworth

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January/February 2003 issue