Boots and Barbecue event to celebrate the great outdoors

Ruby retrieves a black duck.

Boots and Barbecue to benefit the Northern Neck Land Conservancy (NNLC) will be held September 24 at Grove Mount Farm, 755 Grove Mount Road near Warsaw, the home of Fran and Kirwan King.

The event will be held from 12:30 to 4 p.m. The theme will be “Dogs, Decoys and Doubles.”

Fritz Wildt is on the program. He has trained retrievers for hunting, companionship and competition for most of his life, first on Maryland’s Eastern Shore and now, on his farm in Haynesville.

Wildt plans to run several dogs on a course designed to highlight their ability to take verbal commands and hand signals to find hidden bumpers and return them to their handlers, said Elizabeth Friel, NNLC executive director.

Tickets are $40. Beer, wine, fried oysters and a barbecue dinner are included in the ticket price. For tickets, visit nnconserve.org, or call Friel, 462-0979.

The teamwork of dogs and handlers will be just one of the outdoor skills on display at Boots, said Friel.  The event includes local decoy carvers who will bring blocks of wood to “life” in the form of counterfeit waterfowl.

Their work will show why decoy carving has found its place among American folk art and has an enduring following in the Chesapeake Bay region, she said. There will also be exhibits of antique duck decoys and side-by-side shotguns, such as those used in the Northern Neck decades ago.

Other sportsmen on the program include duck carvers Wade Johnson of Warsaw, Clarence “Juice” McKenney, of Mt. Holly and Willard Bowen of Warsaw.

Larry Sisson of Essex County will display some of the historically-important antique duck and goose decoys he has collected from the Chesapeake Bay region during an obsessive quest that began 50 years ago.

Visitors also will have an opportunity to examine a portion of a valuable private collection of old shotguns, said Friel.  The guns, most of them handmade by American artisans around the turn of the 20th-century, define a lost era of abundance before urban sprawl replaced wildlife habitat and game was hunted for sport and for commercial sale.

“Fritz, Juice, Wade, Willard and Larry are incredibly perceptive people. They have been deeply influenced by their outdoor experiences and have the unique ability to share it through the arts of decoy carving and dog training,” said president Lawrence Latane. “We are fortunate to have them as our neighbors.”



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