A decoy entered in Ocean County's annual baymen's show. (Photo: Ocean County)
A decoy entered in Ocean County’s annual baymen’s show. (Photo: Ocean County)

An Ocean County tradition for 38 years won’t be stopped by the coronavirus pandemic even if, like most things, it will be “a little different” this year.

Old Time Barnegat Bay Decoy and Gunning Show, hosted by the Ocean County Department of Parks and Recreation, is normally a two-day show at at Tip Seaman County Park in Tuckerton that features birding decoys and exhibits on Ocean County’s coastal hunting and fishing traditions. There is also an annual contest for best decoy in several categories.

As part of the online alternative to the 2020 show, the Ocean County Department of Parks and Recreation, on Sunday, Sept. 27 will post the judging of award presentations for six of the key contests traditionally held as part of the show. Awards will be presented for:

  • Barnegat Bay Gunning Decoy Contest – Traditional Division
  • Barnegat Bay Gunning Decoy Contest – Contemporary Division
  • Delaware River Gunning Decoy Contest
  • Traditional Shorebird Decoy Contest
  • Youth Gunning Decoy Contest
  • Youth Shorebird Decoy Contest

“This allows us to continue to promote and recognize the traditions of the baymen,” Freeholder Virginia Haines said. “We will bring to the public through social media a great learning experience for those who are unaware of the rich traditions of the men and women who once earned their livelihoods from our local waters and surrounding lands.”

The contest rules can be found on the Parks Department’s website: www.oceancountyparks.org. All entries must be registered by 10 a.m., Sept. 19 when judging will take place lakeside at Tip Seaman County Park. The contest venue will be open to judges and contestants registering carvings only.

Other awards normally presented at the show will be folded into the 2021 show including the Hurley Conklin Award – the highlight of the award presentation – which is awarded to individuals who have lived their lives in the traditions preserved by the show.

“As we prepare to give the public an idea of what this show annually entails, we will have archival videos and photos from past shows posted, along with new videos featuring interviews and topics related to decoys and other traditions of our region’s baymen,” Haines said.

Traditionally the festival opens each day with skeet shooting. Competitions in carving, calling, retrieving and boat building fill the day, while music by Pinelands’ musicians is played at both the park and the nearby Tuckerton Seaport. The show usually attracts about 300 vendors that offer duck calls, sporting artwork, decorative carvings, model boats, guided hunt services, hunting dog supplies, and more.

“Through a series of competitions, exhibits and demonstrations, we are helping to preserve the heritage and traditions of the bay for years to come,” Haines said. “The coronavirus will not preclude us from continuing to preserve this history. We hope everyone will join us online this year.”

For more details, visit www.OceanCountyParks.org or call 609-971-3085.