The Wings 'n Water Festival is turning the big 3-0 this year - and organizers are giving the popular event a bit of a facelift to celebrate.
With a new slogan, an added venue, bigger and better auction items, and even a new, midsummer date, the annual celebration of all things outdoors proves to be an even bigger draw this time around.
"We've modified the whole event, starting from changing the date," says Lenore Tedesco, executive director of the Wetlands Institute. "We've completely updated the auctions. We've got new items, new experiences, things that are hard to get - hard to access."
The festival takes place 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday, July 12, and Friday, July 13, in various locations throughout Stone Harbor and Avalon. Festival highlights include carving, fly tying and painting demonstrations, live animals, an aquarium touch tank, face painting, boat rides and kayaking.
The weekend also will include dune walks, bird walks, salt marsh safaris, beer and wine tastings, as well as live music. Participants also will have the opportunity to release baby Diamondback terrapins into the bay.
"With this being the 30th anniversary … we want people to know this is really important to our community," Tedesco says. "Some people haven't been here in a long time, and this is their chance to come and see what's new."
Bob Elder, an avid fisherman and birdwatcher from Cape May Courthouse, says he was "hooked" after he attended his first Wings 'n Water Festival with his wife in 1996.
He has come every year since.
"The diversity of activities is great," says Elder, 68. "We like going to see the art. We go to see many of the same exhibits over the years. I have two children and grandchildren. … It's delightful, and they love it. And now, the new focus is on more activity kinds of things."
Highlights at this year's Wings 'n Water Festival include:
New festival venue
This year's festival includes a new venue - the 96th Street lot in the center of Stone Harbor - and with it comes a full schedule of family-friendly activities. On Thursday, children can participate in a fish-printing activity with the Jacques Cousteau National Estuarine Research Reserve. The New Jersey DEP will present "build a rain barrel" on Thursday, followed by "paint a rain barrel" on Friday, and the Home Depot is sponsoring a "build a birdhouse" event on both days. Other activities include live birds from Woodford Cedar Run Wildlife Refuge, boat building, and funny twists on classic games such as "drop in the bucket" and "go fish" taking place at various times on Thursday and Friday. A complete schedule with times can be found at www.wetlandsinstitute.org.
Appreciate local art
Browse and shop a display of one-of-a-kind artwork, including wild and waterfowl bird carvings, fish carvings, photographers and flatwork artists. Festival artists Mike Budden, Ellen Gavin, Chuck Law, Andrea Krupp, Rita Halderman and Pat Flaherty will display Plein Air paintings completed in the three days prior to the festival. The exhibit also will feature work by popular plein art alumni artists Stan Sperlak, Lynne Milliken, Scott Yeager and Beth Erlund, who will display key pieces from her 60 paintings in 60 days challenge. Artwork will be on display and for sale at the Avalon Community Hall, 3001 Avalon Ave., Avalon.
Wine and beer tasting
The Stone Harbor Women's Civic Center will offer a wine and beer tasting Thursday and Friday. Participating exhibitors include Tuckahoe Brewing Company, Cape May Winery, Natali Vineyards and Jessie Creek Winery. The civic center is located at 96th Street and the beach in Stone Harbor. Admission is $8 and includes a commemorative glass. Must be 21 to participate.
'80s Flashback concert
Dust off your best '80s gear for a flashback benefit concert with '80s tribute rock band M80 on Thursday, July 12, at The Princeton in Avalon. The concert begins at 7:30 p.m., and tickets are $10 at the door. The Princeton is located at 2008 Dune Drive in Avalon.
A sunset cocktail cruise aboard the Miss Avalon II, a two-tier 70-foot party boat, will take place 6:30 to 8 p.m. Friday, July 13. Enjoy music, cocktails and light hors d'oeuvres. The cruise departs at 7 p.m. from the Avalon Fishing Center, located at 14th and Ocean Drive in Avalon (guests are asked to arrive by 6:30 p.m.). Tickets are $37.50 per person and must be purchased in advance.
Enjoy cocktails, food and live and silent auctions at the Wetland Institute's annual fundraiser, taking place Saturday, July 14. More than 180 high-end items and activities include everything from a 10-day cruise, an African safari and an executive suite for 12 at an upcoming 76ers game.
The auction event runs from 6 to 10 p.m. at the Wetlands Institute. Tickets start at $60 per person. Online bidding available at www.charityauctionstoday.com/store/wetlandsinstitute.
Quilts of Wings 'n Water
A display of 100 privately owned new and old quilts and wall hangings will be on display at St. Paul's Catholic Church Social Hall, located at the corner of 3rd Avenue and 101st Street in Stone Harbor. Handmade items and quilts also will be for sale. This year, there also will be patches of material available for children to color. The patches will be made into a quilt that will be on display and possibly raffled off at the 2013 quilt show.