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Junior Duck Stamp entries just shy of goal

By Staff | Apr 1, 2015

A poker chip signifies the judge’s decision. CRAIG GARRETT

It was a few ducks shy of a raft.

Still, some 3,074 Florida children entered the Junior Duck Stamp contest. Judges at the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge were choosing the top entrants March 26, with the winners in four age groups moving on to the finals in federal competition in late April. The winner’s drawing is placed on a federal stamp sold to collectors. It also ensures a lifetime of notoriety.

The Florida coordinator for the Junior Duck Stamp program, Becky Larkins, had hoped for 3,100 statewide entrants. Larkins is a ranger and education coordinator at the Ding Refuge. The quality of the artwork and a sharp jump in the number of younger children participating in the program, however, far outweighed missing her goal by 16 drawings, Larkins said.

“I know a lot of these kids, and they are very excited,” she said. “I couldn’t be happier.”

The Junior Duck Stamp program dates to the 1980s, when is was first introduced by Sanibel School art instructor Jaye Boswell. She was a judge at the March 26 contest at the Ding, has judged federal winners in Washington, D.C.

3,074 Florida children entered this year’s Junior Duck Stamp contest. CRAIG GARRETT

The junior program was a takeoff on the adult duck stamp program started in Sanibel by Jay Norwood Darling, the namesake of the refuge. He was an ink cartoonist who designed the program’s first duck stamp. He was also a founder of the National Wildlife Federation. Duck stamp proceeds are in the millions and help fund federal wildlife management projects. Original duck stamp artwork fetches thousands from collectors.

Ultimately, though, the duck stamp contest is about a child placing crayon, chalk, paintbrush or pencil to paper. Many entries at the March 26 judging were interpretive, meaning the child followed basic instructions of sheet size, that the drawing was a duck, goose or swan in its habitat and was a native to Florida or the United States. One had the word “mom” scrawled on the drawing, others were colorful and fun but lacked a duck, goose or swan.

And many of the younger entrants dabbed in background details and other touches that weren’t recognized as official in past years, Larkins said. Interpretation was a new element in this year’s contest. Ultimately realism takes top honors, however.

Judges in Sanibel picked from four age categories, choosing three from each and a best in show entry. Those will be forwarded to Washington for the national contest. Florida’s Junior Duck Stamp winner last year, Megan Zou, is from Miami. She submitted a rendering this year of a pair of mallard ducks. The adult Federal Duck Stamp contest is in October.

The six Junior Duck Stamp judges at the Ding viewed each of the 3,074 entries, placing a poker chip on the artwork that best met the guidelines, and also jumped off the paper. Wood carving legend and islander Jim Sprankle was one of the six. He has judged two national Junior Duck Stamp competitions. The others were Jaye Boswell, Deborah LaFogg, Joyce Palmer, Brandi Couse and Jeff Combs.

Megan Zou of Miami won last year’s Florida competition. She entered this year’s contest with a rendering of a pair of mallard ducks. CRAIG GARRETT

A Florida child has never won the national Junior Duck Stamp contest. Last year’s winner was from New Jersey. Larkins said there are drawbacks to living in the Sunshine State: Very few kids are exposed to ducks, geese or swans. While many flying creatures vacation here, few are native.

“There are some very talented children in Florida,” she said, “but a lot of them just don’t see ducks.”

The best way to follow the contest is at www.fws.gov/juniorduck.