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G&H Decoys hosts Waterfowl Festival Saturday
Fundraiser for Oklahoma Conservation Foundation has decoys, dogs, food trucks... and football
HENRYETTA—The showroom wasn’t too “showy” at G&H Decoys factory headquarters Wednesday, but the potential for the coming weekend was clear enough.
All around were signs of the renovations that are underway with new ownership’s rejuvenation of Oklahoma’s original decoy factory. It was a bit dusty, but G&H Operations Manager Clint Barnes laid out a vision easy enough to see with some spit and polish—and a big screen TV for football.
It’s tough to plan an event on any Saturday in Oklahoma during football season, but at the Inaugural Oklahoma Waterfowl Festival, the duck calling contests and gundog demos will be there right along with the OU-Texas game and a tailgate-like atmosphere.
Food trucks will add some enticing smells with their offerings from the parking lot, vendors will have all the coolest stuff available, kids will have a chance to shoot some BB guns, and, above all, there will be talk and sounds of waterfowl hunting.
The event is a benefit for the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Foundation. Barnes emphasized that point repeatedly. The Foundation works directly with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation to enhance its conservation projects.
While it is not a promotion for G&H, it does mark the company’s return to hold a prominent spot in Oklahoma’s waterfowling community. The new owners are committed to taking an active role up front for conservation and an annual waterfowl festival fits that bill, he said.
The shindig runs 9 a.m. – 6 p.m. Saturday in Henryetta. You can’t miss the G&H headquarters just off Highway 75, but the address is 601 US Highway 75 North, for you Google Maps addicts.
Whether you’re new to waterfowl hunting or an old hand, it sounds like you’ll find something of interest at the event, even if it’s just sitting around watching the OU-Texas game on the big screen TV with some like-minded folk.
They have lined up hunting seminars morning and afternoon, plan for hunting dog demos all day and a variety of exhibitors will be there sharing their goods and gab. Our friends at the Foundation advise to “look for the golden duck,” which recognizes vendors who have pledged to donate 2% of their proceeds to the Conservation Foundation.
The Oklahoma State Duck Calling Contest runs 11 a.m.-2 p.m. with winners eligible to compete in the World’s Championship at Stuttgart, Ark. in November. It will be set up on an outdoor stage.
Kudos to whoever decided on the outdoor venue for the calling contest. I’ve attended way too many of those contests in large, echoing conference rooms. The sound will be great outside.
For my part, it was great to step through the doors of G&H again and to get a tour of the factory. Last time I was there I wrote a column with the former owner, the late Dick “Duck G” Gazalski, who was 80 at that time. His father, John, started the company with J.V. Hutton in 1934, after the use of live ducks to decoy birds was outlawed.
Duck was fun to talk with, full of stories, and knew tons of fascinating history.
It wasn’t until I left Barnes the other day I recalled that Duck never did let me in past the showroom. That’s why that old column only had photos of him in the old showroom and some historic photos of the olden days.
I remembered, he had said there were too many secrets to be kept about how the decoys are made.
Barnes said secrets remain, in response to a few of my questions, but the paints and other factors that give the last all-American decoy brand a long-lasting family heirloom reputation are not something the naked eye can perceive, apparently.
Fewer than a dozen employees remained at the company when avid outdoorsman and local lawyer Ray Penny formed a group in 2021 to purchase the factory and keep G&H alive.
“We’ve hired back a lot of people who worked here before,” Barnes said. “Some we found and they left their jobs that day to come back here.”
Workers prepared, painted, and boxed decoys Wednesday to send out to merchants and customers. At one time G&H was a major employer in Henryetta and it could grow again.
Only a few employees remained when Penny’s group purchased the company last year. Twenty-four people are working at the factory now, more than double what was at the company a year ago, Barnes said.
And they are busy. “We kinda underestimated how big it was going to be our first year back,” Barnes said.
Look for G&H to expand into more retail stores and once again become the household Oklahoma name that began to fade.
“We’re talking to a lot of retailers and they all have been saying, ‘we’re glad you’re back,’” Barnes said.
Indeed. Let the festivities begin!
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