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Minnesota Decoy Collectors
2002 Decoy Show

Bloomington, Minnesota
February 1-2, 2002

After hibernating for a couple of months Decoy Magazine headed to Minneapolis for the 34th annual Decoy Show sponsored by the Minnesota Decoy Collectors Association at the Thunderbird Hotel across from the Mall of America. This is always the first show of the year for Decoy Magazine and one of our favorites.

We arrived on Thursday morning, check into the hotel and began roaming the hallways searching for open rooms bearing hidden treasures. Some early birds show up on Wednesday to get first picks so they must have found all the good stuff. Throughout the day more collectors showed up and more rooms were opened, despite the snowstorm (I’m sure most from the Great North would consider it a dusting). This year there were over 70 participating in the room to room activity..

Early Friday afternoon many of the collectors move their inventory into the ballroom for the opening night “members-only” show and auction. And anyone can become a member, just show up and join. A good crowd turned out and about 70 decoys were sold in the auction, topped by a pair of Ben Schmidt bluebills.

The Friday evening hospitality room party for exhibitors and members – featuring the best buffet on the long decoy show circuit – is our favorite part of the weekend. The atmosphere is conducive for conversation (particularly after everyone’s made one pass through the line), and great tales of decoy collecting past and present circulate the room into the long hours of the morning.

The turnout on Saturday was steady – we nearly sold out of books and back issues and even found a Virginia ruddy duck to bring back east. Over 2000 people came through the door between the two days. The membership put together a well-designed display on the theme of “Duck Hunting Gear from our Past,” which included a neat duck hunting boat and some interesting hunting implements. This year’s annual Best Bird Contest featured buffleheads and we’ve pictured the winners. 

Collectors of factory decoys are usually treated to a good variety of choices at this show, particularly Herters. This year one local collector picked up a nice pair of Mason Chesapeake Bay model canvasbacks and was thrilled. He said he rarely gets to add a quality decoy to his Mason collection. Another Midwest collector showed us a nearly mint Ducharme canvasback with great form and nice patina. Even in Minnesota these are nearly impossible to come by.

The Minnesota Decoy Collectors Association, with over 400 members, has already made plans for next year’s 2003 Decoy Show. For information on the show or membership, contact the MDCA, PO Box 144, Zumbrota, MN 55992, (507) 732-7074.

31st annual LIDCA Decoy &
Sporting Collectibles Show

Patchogue, New York
February 24, 2002

The annual Decoy & Sporting Collectibles Show, sponsored by the Long Island Decoy Collectors Association, lasts for only a day. That’s one of the many reasons we enjoy this show. You show up, do your business, then pack up and go home. Deciding to slow down and smell the roses, so to speak, this year we decided to make a weekend out of it.

We left on Friday for a visit with Alan and Elaine Haid at their home in southeastern Connecticut. It was a wee bit of a detour but well worth the extra miles. Alan and Elaine have been building a fine collection of decoys for over 30 years, and recently completed a new addition to their house to showcase them properly. The design of the “museum” is stunning and the craftsmanship in the center fireplace and shelving is evident, but it’s the decoys that immediately capture your attention. The collection includes some of the finest examples by the most important decoy makers of nearly every geographic region, with a particular strength in Illinois River and Mason decoys. One collector insists that bird for bird their collection is the best. There were a few shorebirds in particularly that caught our eye. We enjoyed hearing the stories behind many of the birds in the collection and had a very pleasurable visit.

On Saturday afternoon we joined the Haids, along with Russ and Karen Goldberger and Jim and Debbie Allen, on a visit to the Long Island home of Joy and Tim Sieger, the chairman for this year’s Long Island show. Although Tim is a Long Islander he has many Illinois River decoys in his collection, including one of the largest collections of Bert Graves decoys that we’ve ever seen. But we’re partial to the Gelston shorebirds and mergansers that we spied on his shelves.

Sunday morning was beautiful and the crowd arrived at the Knights of Columbus Hall in Patchogue early for the annual decoy show. They sold out over 100 exhibitor tables and for the second year in a row attendance increased – from 1100 to 1312. Once again the show got some advance press in the New York Times and New York Newsday. Although overall sales seemed a bit more sluggish than last year, traffic was steady, with some vendors still making sales when the doors closed at four.

PostcardThis year the show display highlighted the work of Thomas H. Gelston, the first in a series of “Long Island Masters” that promote the work of Long Island’s early decoy makers. The Show Display Chairman, Dick Cowan, designed a masterful creation of Gelston’s workshop and decorated it with some great Gelston decoys from the membership’s collections. It was a terrific effort. The show committee also unveiled the first “Long Island Masters,” print, the first in a series of prints that will coordinate with each year’s show exhibit, this year being Thomas H. Gelston. Created by Vito De Vito, the prints will sell for $100 each with an additional charge for a remargue. Part of the proceeds will be donated to the Long Island Museum’s decoy acquisition fund and part will be used to raise funds for the future publication of a book on Long Island decoys.

The Long Island Decoy Collectors Association meets monthly. For information on next year’s show or membership – or to order a copy of their limited edition print – contact the LIDCA, PO Box 490, Watermill, NY 11976, (631) 537-0153.

Wildlife Art & Sportfishing Show
Virginia Beach, Virginia
March 1-3, 2002

This was the first year that the Virginia Beach decoy show teamed up with sportfishing and boat vendors for a combined Wildlife Art & Sportfishing Show at the Pavilion in Virginia Beach. The show, which had been falling in attendance, promised this new effort would be bigger and better, and they doubled the table fee to $200 for the weekend. What was most noticeable was that there were only a dozen vendors selling old decoys among the 294 booths leased. And the promise of crossover traffic was virtually non-existent.

Many of the old decoy collectors seemed less than enthusiastic.

The highlight of this show has always been the “pond area,” where vintage decoys are elaborately displayed by various collectors. While there appeared to be a reduction in the number of artifacts in this year’s display, the quality didn’t suffer, as all ten exhibits were top-notch. The Currituck Wildlife Guild put out a beautiful display of swan decoys. Ron Zelnick brought 150 game calls to exhibit, including a Kinney & Harlow mallard head duck call with a shotgun shell in its mouth. 

The old decoy competition on Saturday morning drew nearly 100 entries in a dozen different categories. The top award is always given to the Best Back Bay/Currituck Sound Decoy and some of the best local area decoys are entered in this category. This year’s winner was an Alvirah Wright canvasback from the collection of Bill & Alice Walsh of Virginia Beach. Bill and Alice always enter a few winners every year and this year was no exception. They also entered the favorite candidates for “Folkiest” Decoy, Wildfowler pintail, Doug Jester bufflehead and American coot. Bud Coppedge, Ed Johnston and Dick McIntyre were the judges.

The Virginia Beach show is one of the oldest decoy shows in the country. Undoubtedly attendance had been falling and the show committee has been searching for a solution, but they’re going to need to decide if this combination of wildlife art and sportfishing really works.

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February/March 2002 issue