The Waterfowl Festival will induct two longtime supporters into its Hall of Fame this year. Bruce Perry has been a volunteer with the carving exhibits and numerous other areas since the Festival’s beginning in 1971. Frank Sisser is being recognized not just for his 20 years of work with the Festival’s art committees, but also for his contributions in promoting and advancing the genre of wildlife art.
Easton’s Bruce Perry has been known as the “go-to guy” since his father, the late Bill Perry, first went to him to help plan and build exhibits for the first Waterfowl Festival. From those early days of doing “whatever my father needed me to do,” Perry has been a part of maintaining his father’s vision of bringing the nation’s finest carvers and artists together in one premier show.
Initially working behind the scenes for his father, who chaired the carving galleries, Perry later took over as chairman of those exhibits. He worked year round to recruit the best carvers for the show and a team of trusted volunteers to keep everything running smoothly.
Over the years, he came to know the carvers personally, supporting and encouraging them. Perry has seen their work change from those early years to include song birds and birds of prey in addition to the original game birds.
While his sisters, Debbye Jackson and Kimberly Whiteley, now chair the carving exhibits, Perry continues to serve on the carving committee, actively involved in the selection of carvers to maintain the excellence of the show. “We still make it a point to critique all the carvers to keep the quality high,” he noted. Perry has helped to select many of the carvers chosen to create the Festival’s signature Masterpiece Carving each year.
In addition to his work with the carving exhibits, Perry has made numerous contributions to the event, including having chaired the Buy Sell Swap venue, organized the first Waterfowling Artifacts exhibit and served on the Board of Directors. He also carries on efforts in his father’s name by organizing and hosting the Cocktail Decoy Auction, at which Preview Night guests bid on miniature decoys to benefit the William A. Perry Scholarship Fund.
Frank Sisser of Chanhassen, Minnesota, started out as a volunteer and exhibitor at the Waterfowl Festival with U.S. Art magazine. As editor and publisher of that periodical, he was invited to participate on the Festival’s art jury and arts council. Sisser also enlisted the magazine as a promotional partner with the Festival.
He is being inducted into the Hall of Fame not just for his work with the Festival, but for the impact he has had in the world of wildlife art. Although U.S. Art has now ceased publishing, during its life, Sisser oversaw a vehicle that helped expose people across the country to wildlife and nature art, training and educating the public to appreciate quality work and the significance of the genre.
Sisser sees the Waterfowl Festival as playing a similar role. “Every type of art has quality issues,” he said. “That’s where the Waterfowl Festival really has a responsibility to collectors. Without places like the Festival to present the best and show why they are the best, the genre won’t move forward.”
While Sisser believes the original wave of popularity of wildlife art has plateaued, he sees it poised for a new resurgence with the environmental movement. “The first wave was propelled by hunters and fishermen taking what they knew outside and putting it into their homes,” he said. “The next will be from those who want to preserve what we may be losing.”
Bruce Perry and Frank Sisser will be welcomed into the Waterfowl Festival Hall of Fame on Thursday, November 13, during the Opening Ceremony at the Historic Avalon Theatre.
The 2008 Waterfowl Festival will be held in Easton November 14, 15 & 16. For more information, to volunteer or to make a donation, contact the Waterfowl Festival office at 410-822-4567 or visit its website,www.waterfowlfestival.org.