A very special competition took place in the Lake Region on Tuesday, March 27.

A very special competition took place in the Lake Region on Tuesday, March 27.

Five judges spent the day at Peterson Arena in the Ramsey County Event Center evaluating over 1,000 submissions from students from throughout the state looking for the winning entries in the Junior Duck Stamp competition. The judges were Kathy Kirschman from the Natural Resources Trust from Bismarck; Carol GreyWater from Cankdeska Cikana Community College, Fort Totten, representing the local arts community; Andrew Ahrens who works for North Dakota Game and Fish out of the Devils Lake area; Alicia Campbell from the US Fish and Wildlife Service and David Lambeth, retired UND Professor and birding enthusiast who lives in Grand Forks.

There are four age groups to be judged: Kindergarten through Grade 3, Grade 4 through Grade 6, Grade 7 through Grade 9 and Grade 10 through Grade 12. This year there were over 500 entries in both the two younger age groups; K-3 and 4 - 6. The two older age groups, grades 7 - 9 and 10 - 12 did not have nearly as many entries and organizers would like to see that change. In each age group there are three who receive first place, three who receive second place, three who receive third place, and 16 who receive honorable mention awards.

Then at the end, all the first place winners’ submissions are judged to find the “Best in Show.” The competition is fierce. This is serious business. Each submission has an entry form on the back with pertinent information about the artist as well as a quotation or “message” the artist presents about conservation and its importance. In 2016 the winner of the best message in the country was a young man from Leeds, ND.

The 2017 Best of Show winner was Megan Tichy, 18, from Tower City, ND. This year’s winner of Best of Show is Daniel Schumacher, 15, from Linton, ND. The judges have a process they go through as they eliminate some of the submissions and narrow the field down to a workable number. That’s necessary because in some categories there are hundreds of pictures to go through. The judges do not speak to one another as they go through the process. They are assisted by Jennifer Jewett from the Valley City Wetland Management District and Kristin Askerooth from the Tewaukon National Wildlife Refuge.

This is the 25th year of the Junior North Dakota Duck Stamp competition. Nationally it began 27 years ago, with our state joining in two years later. Colleen Graue, who is Visitor Services Manager at Sullys Hill National Game Preseve, an employee of the Fish and Wildlife Service, is the Junior Duck Stamp coordinator for the state. She hopes to spark more interest in the competition in this part of the state. “We’d like to see more schools get interested in Junior Duck Stamp,” she said.

They have resources available, too, for loan to area schools like a “Learning Trunk” filled with art supplies plus waterfowl and wetland resources. Also, the Junior Duck Stamp program provides a curriculum for use in traditional school settings, homeschool setting and non traditional educational settings, like 4-H clubs and so on. Anyone interested in either of these or both, contact Graue at 701-766-4272 ext 428. Since North Dakota got involved in the Junior Duck Stamp competition, the state has become second in the nation for number of entries. The only state that has had more is the state of California.

On Tuesday the Friends of Sullys Hill group supplied a tasty lunch for the judges and contest workers. In past years the competition has taken place in Audubon National Wildlife Refuge but now it takes place right here in the Lake Region thanks to Graue. She has hopes that it will continue to grow and maybe next year host a reception or open house where the entries can be viewed. It is an amazing collection of colorful, artistic renderings of all kinds of waterfowl. The winner of the state’s contest goes on to compete on a national level.

For the first time, ever, Graue says the national competition will take place in North Dakota this year. It is set for April 20 in Bismarck at the Heritage Center and according to Graue, all 50 states will be participating.