Contestants set traps at the 2020 National Outdoor Show in Dorchester County, Maryland. Photos courtesy National Outdoor Show/Facebook.

Community, Wildlife and a Taste for Muskrat: It’s Time for the National Outdoor Show

Dorchester County, on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, is home to museums, monuments, and a local hero whose story is celebrated across the nation. But the “heart of the Chesapeake Bay” supports a way of life that has existed since Native Americans first shared their knowledge of trapping, hunting, fishing, and oystering with newly-arrived settlers. This weekend, Feb. 24 and 25, the National Outdoor Show celebrates this unique culture with two days of competitions, demonstrations, exhibits, food, family fun, and a visit by representatives of Cameron Parish, Louisiana, Dorchester’s sister county.

Overseeing the festivities is Buddy Foxwell, the show’s emcee. “He’s got a lot of energy and he’s a lot of fun,” says Bill Christopher, president of the Dorchester County Chamber of Commerce. “It’s worth the trip down just to see him.”

The show kicks off on Friday with the Miss Outdoor Pageant. Talent, confidence, and a commitment to community may have brought contestants to the stage, but an affinity for outdoor life is just as much a part of this group of well-rounded competitors. A few years ago, a former Miss Outdoor represented the National Outdoor Show at a local oyster festival. She won first place in the mollusk eating contest by downing a quart of mixed squid, scallops, and mussels, backed by two shots of hot sauce. An observer reported that “she was finished and taking pictures while some of the guys were over in a corner throwing up.”  

On Saturday, the Little Miss and Little Mister Outdoors contestants take the stage. All winners and runners-up earn scholarships and cash prizes and represent the National Outdoor Show at the Louisiana Fur and Wildlife Show in Cameron Parish.

Also on Saturday, kids can celebrate Smokey the Bear’s 78th birthday, take part in a muskrat race or create in the kids’ craft corner. There will be K-9 demos plus duck- and goose-calling demonstrations. For shoppers, handcrafted jewelry, carvings, and craft items will be available for purchase. Cooks and connoisseurs won’t want to miss Saturday’s venison cooking contests. Settle in for competitions of muskrat and raccoon skinning, trap setting, trot line baiting, and oyster shucking. 

After all, Dorchester is muskrat country. On Saturday, the Outdoor Show Cafe offers the local delicacy for a limited time. If you have no appetite for muskrats, the Cafe will also serve crabcakes, chicken, soups, and stews for the more traditional (or less adventurous) diner.

The whole point of the show is to introduce newcomers and visitors to Dorchester County‘s culture and heritage. Bill Christopher offers this suggestion, “Hoopers Island is not far away from the show’s location. Take the ride down, see the Bridge to Nowhere, and learn some more local history.”

The National Outdoor Show is February 24-25 at the South Dorchester School, 3485 Golden Hill Road, Church Creek MD 21622.