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2016 Federal Junior Duck Stamp judging to be held at ‘Ding’

By Staff | Apr 20, 2016

Megan Zou, of Miami, took Florida’s best of show with her tundra swan portrait. PHOTO PROVIDED

In celebration of Earth Day, Friday, April 22, J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge is hosting the 2016 Federal Junior Duck Stamp judging in the Visitor & Education Center.

Florida Junior Duck Stamp Coordinator Rebecca Larkins said the presentations start at 9 a.m., judging at 10 a.m. and a national winner should be announced by noon.

The public is invited to attend the judging. Admission is free, but seating is limited and on a first-come basis.

“We are hoping they are going to call the winner,” Supervisory Refuge Ranger Toni Westland, who will be the emcee for the Federal Junior Duck Stamp Judging, said.

This is the first time the contest has left the upper east coast area.

“They are wanting to travel it more because it just gets more outreach into the communities that the Junior Duck Stamp exists,” she said. “Becky having the No. 1 entries last year . . . it was No. 1 with over 3,000 entries; she does an amazing job. It makes sense to honor it here, so we are super excited. Next year it is going to Charleston. They are going to keep moving it around because they are seeing it as a benefit.”

This year Larkins received 2,766 entries.

Larkins said it’s exciting to have the judging at “Ding” because Florida has a contender this year with a really amazing piece of artwork done by a 15 year old. Megan Zou, of Miami, took Florida’s best of show with her tundra swan portrait.

“With Florida in the 20 plus years of the Junior Duck Stamp, we have never won a national title. It started right next door at the Sanibel School in 1989 and we still have yet to win the national title,” Larkins said.

The Federal Duck Stamp Program began in 1934 after Jay Norwood “Ding” Darling, who was the head of the U.S. Biological Survey (precursor to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service), initiated the program. He began the program to raise funds to purchase refuge lands across the country. Darling designed the first federal duck stamp.

The Junior Duck Stamp became an extension of the program when former Sanibel Elementary School art teacher Jaye Boswell began it with her students in 1989. Four years later in 1993, the first national Junior Duck Stamp Art Contest was sponsored by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

The contest is held for kindergarten through 12th grade students. Within the state level each grade is entered into a group – kindergarten through third graders, fourth through sixth graders, seventh through ninth graders and 10th through 12th graders. There are 25 winners chosen from each age category for a total of 100 winners overall.

“The top three, which are the top three first place, from every age category go into the state competition as the best of show round. From the best of show round, that best of show goes to the national judging,” Larkins said. “From each state, out of their 100 winners, their best of show goes into the finalist best of show. Only the best of shows that goes across the 51 states and U.S. territories are actually going to compete for the coveted national title.”

She said that artwork will be made into a stamp. The $5 purchase price of the stamp goes directly into environmental education opportunity funding and recognition of the students who participated in the program.

The refuge has invited 60 students from Patriot Elementary School and Cypress Lake Middle School to attend the judging event.

The students who placed from those two schools are Caiden Sandifer, 8, from Patriot Elementary School who received an honorable mention; Sofia Souza, 14, from Cypress Lake Middle School received second place; Natalie Klackleklepfer, 14, from Cypress Lake Middle School received an honorable mention; Jordyn Ward, 13, from Cypress Lake Middle School received an honorable mention; Sam Burg, 14, from Cypress Lake Middle School received an honorable mention and Tracy Hoang, 12, from Cypress Lake Middle School received an honorable mention.

“I go into both of those schools. The teachers are really prominent in my numbers for the Florida Junior Duck Stamps,” Larkins said.

During the two hours of waiting for the winner to be announced, duck trivia, raffles and Boswell reading a poem about starting the duck stamp will take place. John Brennan, previous Florida best of show winner, will also be painting continuously while the judging is going on.

“It’s just fun to watch people paint,” Westland said. “He is going to talk about what he is doing.”

Advisor Judge Jim Sprinkle, who has judged both federal and junior before, will do a wood carving talk with kids.

Westland said the students will also be painting with Masterpiece Mixers, out of Cape Coral, around 1 p.m. The kids will be painting a duck, goose, or a swan on small canvases.

“It’s the 100th year for migratory birds. It’s our migratory bird centennial, so we are trying to hash tag bird year into everything, so the kids are going to hash tag bird year on there somewhere. I thought that would be fun in the background or at the bottom,” Westland said. “They are going to pick a duck, goose, or swan and make it more abstract, graffiti like.”

The “Ding” Darling Wildlife Society, Westland said really stepped up for the Friday event. They provided money for the judges lunches to thank them, a judges gift bag, a cruise the night before the event, and busing for the kids from Cypress Lake Middle School and Patriot Elementary School to “Ding.”

Follow Meghan @IslanderMeghan on Twitter.