It has been brought to our attention that there are a whole lot of woodcarvers out there who really don’t know what the Affiliated Wood Carvers Limited is all about. There are even members of AWC who aren’t sure of the background or fundamental purposes of their organization. We hope that this will inform the ones who don’t know, re-enlighten the ones who know some things, and influence many who have not been involved with AWC Ltd.
The Affiliated Wood Carvers Limited was founded as a non-profit organization in 1982 to continue the sponsorship of the International Decoy Contest and the International Woodcarvers Congress. These two woodcarving events were started in the late 1960s under the sponsorship of the Mississippi Valley Fair Board in Davenport, Iowa. Davenport is located right on the Mississippi River in an area known as the Quad Cities, which includes Bettendorf in Iowa and Moline and Rock Island in Illinois. The fair board eventually lost interest in continuing with the shows and competitions, so a number of carvers got together, picked a name, a Board of Directors, a slate of officers and kept the tradition going. A number of years later, the International Decoy Contest expired due to management, funding, and support problems; but the International Woodcarvers Congress continued to grow and get stronger and bigger.
After leaving the Mississippi Valley Fairgrounds, the “Congress” spent many years at the Putnam Museum in Davenport. That move brought the show and competition additional stature in the competitive world of woodcarving. In the setting of a highly respected museum such as the Putnam, the Congress has reached the status of being the most prestigious, longest running, competitively judged, woodcarving art show in the world. We, of course, make that statement with the utmost of humility. There are many local club shows and others that are considered regional shows, all put on by some very fine organizations. But there is no show in existence that we know of, that is as national and international in scope, as is the International Woodcarvers Congress. Due to the addition of an IMAX theater at the Putnam Museum, we lost the space that was allotted to us to put on the show and competition. Strangely enough, we ended up back at the original location of the Congress at the Mississippi Valley Fairgrounds. As it happens all too often, there was another event that wanted our traditional dates and could make more revenue for the fair, so we were displaced once again.
It turns out that leaving the fairgrounds in Davenport was the best thing that could happen to the Congress. With so many things going on in the Quad Cities during the summer and the cost of renting a facility so high, we were forced to look at a venue in the surrounding area. That’s when we made contact with the wonderful people in the small town of Maquoketa, Iowa about 40 miles north of the Quad Cities. The folks running the Jackson County Fairgrounds were extremely happy to welcome us to their community. We went from being a guppy in a huge lake to being a big fish in a small pond! The whole community was eager to see us come to their town and put on a world-class event such as the Congress. The Fair Board, the Chamber of Commerce, the merchants in town as well as the citizens of Maquoketa all welcomed us with open arms. It looks like we have found our real “home” for many years to come. We are able to hold the competition, seminars, banquet, and Judges Critique Sessions all in the same building with additional seminars in an adjacent building; all that at an affordable price. It can’t get much better than that!