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Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Ward World Championship Carving Competition Turns 35

SALISBURY, MD---Wildfowl Carving is an American tradition conceived by the Native Americans who used decoys made of reeds to fool live ducks thereby providing a viable source of food for the community. Like many other traditions of Native American culture, European settlers borrowed the idea of decoys and even imported it back to the Old World, where it remains a highly respected part of present culture and art. In the mid-twentieth century, two brothers from Crisfield, MD, Lem and Steve Ward, became known for not only advancing Wildfowl Carving as a functional craft but were in large part responsible for propelling this American tradition into a highly respected fine art form. Just ask 10-time Ward World Champion Carver Larry Barth of Stahlstown, PA. Barth is one among many carvers over the past 50 years who have elevated carving to a highly decorative art form. Barth and more than 1,000 of the world's top carvers converge on Ocean City, MD, to compete in the most prestigious carving competition of its kind-the Ward World Championship Carving Competition. The Ward Museum of Wildfowl Art, Salisbury University hosts the 35th annual event. Held this year at the Roland E. Powell Convention Center from Friday-Sunday, April 22-24, the competition draws carvers from all across the United States as well as England, Japan, Germany, Italy and Canada, who will compete for top honors with more than $70,000 in prizes and awards. Along with Barth, some of the best known master and professional carvers competing this year include Floyd Scholz of Hancock, VT; Bob Comeau and Heinz Ritter of Montreal, Canada; Pat Godin of Paris, Ontario, Canada; Daniel Burgette of Moose, WY; Bob Guge of Sleep Hollow, IL; Todd Wohlt of Appleton, WI; and Richard Reeves of Chalmette, LA, all of whom will display their fine art carvings as well as provide a wide range of demonstrations, workshops and other activities. Artists also compete in the categories of fish carving, wildlife painting, photography and sculpture; the Youth Carving Competition, which highlights the talents of the master carvers of the future; and the prestigious Lem and Steve Ward Competition, which includes the more traditional but equally prized categories of carving, ranging from contemporary decoys to decorative smoothie shorebirds. In addition, the 51 designs that won at the state level in the Federal Junior Duck Stamp Competition are on display, and the national winner will be selected. The event also features a benefit auction, plus raffles and free giveaways where spectators can win a variety of prizes, and more than 100 vendors selling carvings, art, sculptures, folk-art, crafts, jewelry, and the largest variety of carvings supplies. Also on hand are a wide range of children's and family activities all weekend long. Show hours are Friday, April 22, 10 a.m.-6 p.m.; Saturday, April 23, 9 a.m.-6 p.m.; and Sunday, April 24, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. For tickets, call the Ocean City Convention Center at 1-800-OC-OCEAN. Prices are $10 per day, $8 for seniors and students. Three-day passes are $18. Children 12 and under are free if accompanied by an adult. The competition is funded in part by grants from the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development and Worcester County and Maryland State arts councils. For more information call 410-742-4988, ext. 106, or visit the Ward Museum Web site at www.wardmuseum.org.

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