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Teen takes top honors again for Florida Duck Stamp entry

By Staff | Apr 23, 2019

PHOTO PROVIDED Anna Grace Swanson, 16, of Titusville, took Best of Show for Florida with her portrait of a pair of blue-winged teals.

A Florida student recently won the Florida Junior Duck Stamp Art Contest for the second time.

On March 28, a panel of judges met at the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel to review nearly 2,000 entries from students across the state in kindergarten through 12th grade for the 2019 competition. For a second consecutive year, Anna Grace Swanson, 16, of Titusville, took Best of Show for her portrait of a pair of blue-winged teals.

Refuge Conservation Educator Sara Hallas oversaw the contest, which was judged by nature artists Nancy Tome and John Brennan, refuge staffer Ivette Gonzalez, bird sculptor Jim Sprankle and Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge Manager Bill Miller.

“The entries were absolutely gorgeous pieces of artwork,” Hallas said. “Just seeing the intricate pieces and how much time was spent on these entries is really overwhelming and inspiring.”

The Federal Junior Duck Stamp Conservation and Design Program is an art- and science-based curriculum that teaches wetland and waterfowl conservation to youth. She explained that the students have to research their duck, like coloring and habitat, in order to accurately create their artwork.

Sara Hallas

“They have to do it by research,” Hallas said.

There were 1,984 entries from Florida this year, with dozens of students in various age categories receiving first, second and third place honors, along with honorable mentions. As the overall winner, Anna’s entry moved on to the federal contest, which was judged on April 19 at a Maryland refuge.

Anna, 15 at the time, also took Best of Show in the 2018 state contest.

“It just goes to show what an incredibly talented artist she is,” Hallas said. “We’re just excited she participated again and is representing Florida.”

She noted that there were fewer entries than last year.

PHOTO PROVIDED The judges pick the state winner for the Florida Junior Duck Stamp Contest on March 28 at the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel.

“But we did have new schools join this year,” Hallas said. “And we have wonderful home-school participants.”

She is hoping to get more schools including private ones involved in the contest next year.

“We’re really hoping for a larger turnout next year,” Hallas said.

As of April 22, the federal winner had been announced. Nicole Jeon, 16, of New York, earned top honors with her acrylic painting of a harlequin duck. The federal conservation message was by Haley Chandler, 18, of Vilonia, Arkansas.

The artwork of all the Florida winners is on display at the refuge.

In addition, the students will take part in a special ceremony in October at “Ding” Darling Days.

The program began in 1989 as an extension of the Migratory Bird Conservation and Hunting Stamp, commonly known as the Federal Duck Stamp. The first federal stamp was designed in 1934 by Sanibel cartoonist J.N. “Ding” Darling, who was serving as the director for the Bureau of Biological Survey.

The national Junior Duck Stamp art contest started in 1993, and the first stamp design was selected from the eight participating states. The program was recognized by Congress the following year.

Federal stamps are conservation revenue stamps; 98 percent of the purchase goes to help acquire and protect wetland habitat and purchase conservation easements for the National Wildlife Refuge System.

One hundred percent of the revenue from the sale of Junior Duck stamps, which cost $5 each, goes to support recognition and environmental education activities for students who participate in the program.

While waterfowl hunters 16 years of age or older are required to purchase a Federal Duck Stamp, a current stamp will also serve as a free pass into national wildlife refuges that charge an entry fee.

For more information, visit www.fws.gov/refuge/jn_ding_darling/.

The J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge is at 1 Wildlife Drive.