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Judges Rick and Mike Pierce debate with Scott and Jason Russell about the best duck decoys while Ed Lindsay examines the decoys near Riverwalk Marina at the 2006 Southern Wildlife Festival.
Daily file photos by John Godbey
Judges Rick and Mike Pierce debate with Scott and Jason Russell about the best duck decoys while Ed Lindsay examines the decoys near Riverwalk Marina at the 2006 Southern Wildlife Festival.

Go wild with art, ducks, dogs at Southern Wildlife Festival

By Danielle Komis Palmer
dpalmer@decaturdaily.com · 340-2447

Ducks, artwork and golden retrievers — oh my! The Southern Wildlife Festival returns this year Oct. 20-21 in Decatur at Calhoun Community College’s gymnasium with plenty of outdoors-y items and activities that are a refreshing change from the ho-hum of the daily grind.

The festival, in its 26th year, will again feature many favorites from past years, including the duck decoy carving contest, birds of prey demonstrations and wild game cooking with Chef Ron Casey of Decatur Country Club.

Oh, yes — and don’t forget hundreds of pieces of wildlife artwork by artists from all over the country. The event features original sculptures, paintings, photographs, carvings and jewelry. Prices range from $20 T-shirts and small prints to $10,000 bronze sculptures.

This year’s event will honor the memory of Hartselle’s Larry Chandler, one of America’s premier wildlife artists, who died in March of pneumonia.

Beverly Newton, chairwoman of the festival, said despite the longevity of the festival, many local people have never come to check it out.

“We want everyone to appreciate what’s here,” she said. “It’s not often you get artists of this caliber. It really is amazing.”

And everyone can enjoy the festival — including children. Activities for children include making pinecone bird feeders, leaf stampings and other nature-related artwork.

Wild game cooking

While their children enjoy being creative, parents might enjoy watching (or at least smelling) Casey demonstrate how to cook wild game.

They may also enjoy observing the outdoor retriever demonstration by Tina McAdam of Huntsville, who has trained dogs for 10 years. This will be the first year the demonstration will be performed on a large scale, McAdam said.

She will set up two mechanical launchers outside at Calhoun and launch “bumpers,” or fake birds, for her two retrievers to fetch. She will also demonstrate leading her dog with a whistle and hand movements.

“I know hunters will be interested in it, but beyond that, it’s just amazing to watch these dogs work,” Newton said. “Anyone who loves a dog will want to watch this ... it’s just fascinating.”

Also for animal lovers, a Nauvoo-based educational group called Feathers in Focus will perform demonstrations with live birds of prey.

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A duck decoy tries to fool the judges during the 2006 Southern Wildlife Festival.
The duck decoy carving contest returns for the second straight year, luring entries from across the country. Competitors will demonstrate their carving techniques both days and compete by showing how well their wooden birds float in the Tennessee River.

While the state duck calling contest was featured at last year’s festival, it will not return this year. It was held in Huntsville last month.

Admission for the festival is $3 for adults and $2 for students and senior citizens and is good for both days. Children 6 and younger get in free.

For more information, call the Decatur-Morgan County Convention and Visitors Bureau at 350-2028 or visit www.sowildfest.com.

Event schedule

Saturday, Oct. 20

10:30 a.m. — Decoy demonstrations (carving and painting)

11:30 a.m. — Live birds of prey demonstrations by Feathers in Focus

12:30 p.m. — Wild game cooking with Chef Ron Casey

1:30 p.m. — Live birds of prey demonstrations by Feathers in Focus

2:30 p.m. — Wild game cooking with Chef Ron Casey

3:30 p.m. — Live birds of prey demonstrations by Feathers in Focus

Sunday, Oct. 21

11:30 a.m. — Wild game cooking with Chef Ron Casey

12:30 a.m. — Decoy demonstrations (carving and painting)

1:30 p.m. — Wild game cooking with Chef Ron Casey

2:30 p.m. — Decoy demonstrations (carving and painting)

3:30 p.m. — Retriever demonstration

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