Fifty years! It is almost unbelievable that the Waterfowl Festival has been going on for a half century.

The Festival started small but has grown over the decades. Gradually it has added more and more exhibits, events, carvers, artists and sculptors. All along it also has added thousands of volunteers from throughout the Mid-Shore to help the Festival take place.

The Festival has raised millions of dollars to support a variety of conservation organizations. The Festival also added millions to the area economy. Hotels are booked for miles around. Restaurants are busy. For many businesses Festival week is more productive than Christmas.

In my family, the Perry family, the Festival has been a major event since the beginning.

My dad, the late Bill Perry, and his friend, the late Dr. Harry Walsh, are the co-founders of the Festival.

For the first many years, they were heavily involved in the Festival. They were not alone. So many local people chaired exhibits and events, staffed the Festival and took part in the three days of the Festival weekend.

My stepmother, the late Betty Perry, joked that the Festival was born on her kitchen table. That’s where Dad and Dr. Walsh held many of the early planning meetings for the Festival.

Mother designed the uniform the first Festival Duck Sitters wore. The Duck Sitters were young volunteers who ran errands, and did other chores. My sister Debbye was one of the very first Duck Sitters.

In our family it was expected that every one would help. For example, brother Bruce H. chaired the Carving Exhibit and served on the Festival Board of Directors. My sister, the late Debra Perry Jackson, chaired the carving exhibit, served on the Board of Directors and was elected board president. But she had to step down because of cancer.

Family members stand ready to do whatever chores for which Dad requested help.

Debbye, our sister Kimberly Perry Whiteley, our sister-in-law Louise Perry, and many of their friends, have run the annual Miniature Decoy Auction. It raises money for the Bill Perry Scholarship Fund.

The scholarship fund gives scholarships to Festival volunteers to help with their college expenses.

Brothers and brothers-in-law helped set up exhibit areas and take them down at the weekend’s conclusion.

Our family’s life very much revolves around the Festival’s schedule year around.

This is the way it is for many area families who are dedicated to the Festival. It is a matter of tradition and pride.

In our family, the tradition is now passed on to the fourth generation. My nieces and nephews have taken over duties originally held by the first and second generations. Now, my great nieces and great nephews are taking over Festival responsibilities.

I look forward to the 50th Waterfowl Festival and how it will affect Easton.

Denise Perry Riley is editor emeritus of The Star Democrat. She served two terms on the Festival Board of Directors. She continues to serve on the Bill Perry Scholarship Committee.

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