The Winyah Bay Heritage Festival has doubled its reason to celebrate this year – or tripled it, with the return of Dock Dogs, where every pooch can fly like Superman, up, up and over water.
This seventh annual fest by the Georgetown County Historical Society, benefiting Georgetown County Museum – 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday – has moved west a mile from East Bay Park to Front Street in downtown Georgetown, where the museum moved into new, larger quarters last month at 120 Broad St. Admission for the festival, and for Saturday and Sunday only at the museum, is free.
Janet Williams, among the festival’s events committee members every year, said basing the festival downtown, where a blaze destroyed a block of historic buildings in September, marked a “a good move” to highlight Front Street’s historic district, along with the new museum site.
Since the first festival in 2007 – only one year was missed, in 2010 – “that’s what the whole festival has been about,” Williams said, noting the cumulative funding effort to give the museum a home with ample space to chronicle Lowcountry history, with many artifacts, some preceding the American Revolution.
“For us, it’s a celebration,” she said, “with the festival and museum right there together, and to bring people into the museum, all right downtown.”
The Palmetto Dock Dogs (www.palmettodockdogs.com) competition, open to dogs at least 6 months old and current on vaccinations, comprises jumps for “Big Air” distance and “Extreme Vertical” marks, and in “Speed Retrieve” trials.
Dock Dogs, which also benefits canine charities, “is always a crowd favorite,” Williams said.
Because of the need for a “good, flat surface” for the Dock Dogs layout, she said, look for the pool area in the parking lot behind Augustus & Carolina Rug Gallery, 830 Front St., off Orange Street.
The 2014 festival entails several new activities, such as the “Pluff Mud Kayak Race,” departing from East Bay Park at 2:30 p.m. both days – with single paddlers going first, then tandems – on the Sampit River to the Harborwalk, in back of the River Room restaurant, 801 Front St.
Williams said an archery booth, staffed by Blade Barrel and Reel Outdoors of Georgetown, will let youth try their marksmanship and “put their hands on a bow.”
Amid the rise in popularity of the sport of archery among children, Williams said “bow hunting has really come back.”
“I live in a household of men,” she said, “and every one of the them wants a bow.”
Williams said snakes will make room on stage, hence the revision of annual snake presentation to “Learning the Critters and Snakes of the Lowcountry,” at 11:30 a.m. Saturday. Two men will take turns with youth duck-calling clinics, each $10 including a call device to take home.
A festival tradition remains playing host to the S.C. State Duck Calling Championships, Sunday afternoon, from which the winner will advance to the world finals ( www.callingducks.com) later this year in Stuttgart, Ark.
The mutual gratitude between festival coordinators and state duck-calling championship personnel continues, Williams said, also glad to have other festival staples return, such as The Center for Birds of Prey from Awendaw, with a show at 2 p.m. Saturday, and the “Georgetown Fishing Guides” offering insight into angling by answering questions and giving casting demos.
Jill Santopietro, Georgetown County Museum director, said having the festival downtown makes it every fun for the museum crew, because with the new building, refurbished, “we want to share it.”
She also welcomed everyone to visit the new site, and to head upstairs after taking in a taxidermy display, “The Museum Gone Wild,” with all-local species displayed by Jimmy Hortman for both festival days.
Williams said Hortman undertakes “a lot of work” to set up “all those mounts” which help as part of the “educational process” about local wildlife.
Songs and poems by William P. Baldwin set the mood on the second floor for two photography exhibits that Santopietro said will continue for a while after the festival.
Selden “Bud” Hill’s “The Unpainted South” shows in black and white, “rural buildings and landscapes,” Santopietro said, and “as a counterpoint,” David Soliday from Charleston shares in “Remnants of Rice Fields” an aerial perspective in color.
Santopietro said the photo exhibits combine to show a seemingly “vanishing landscape of Georgetown County. “
“It’s appropriate for the festival,” she said, “in the sense that the rice fields and rural landscape are all part of our heritage.”