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The thrill of being a judge

by Rita Dumaine

The old saying “more fun than the law allows” has never been more true than during my opportunity to serve as a judge in the federal duck stamp contest.

Having been a member of the audience since 1992, and the wife of a former judge, I was very familiar with the process of judging. However, this background did not prepare me for the complete absorption I felt for the task at hand.

A combination of incredible fun and excitement combined with the seriousness of the task created an adrenaline pump that did not quite for the three days of the contest.

The background information offered by the duck stamp office and the availability of their experts proved invaluable. In particular the contributions of the biologist, Jim Wortham were crucial.

Due to the lack of familiarity with the species, Wortham’s wing samples and the frozen carcasses were the only examples a majority of the judges are likely to ever see of black scoters.

Perhaps the biggest shock of the entire contest came at the end of the third round of voting. When Solicitor Larry Mellinger announced that there was a five way tie for first place – I’m sure my gasp was audible to the audience!

As the tie-break rounds continued, the tension mounted. Interior Secretary Gale Norton arrived for the announcement of the winner and patiently waited for the final outcome. It was incredible to see her support and enthusiasm for the duck stamp program, which was all the more appreciated as her predecessor did not show up for the eight years he served in the previous administration.

Finally, the judges selected a winner, and while everyone in the crowd knew which painting had been selected, the five judges had to wait through the presentation of the awards to learn the final outcome.

Many experiences went into the three days to add to the total enjoyment of the trip. Friendships and bonds were created with the other judges … with a little bit of goofiness thrown in too!

In addition to all the camaraderie, I’m sure Cindy O’Connor will never forget the Hotsauceguy.com aka Wayne Youngblood and Bob Dumaine passing out tastes of Wayne’s hot sauces to the bell captain and bartenders at the hotel. At least not as long as she remembers the burning in her throat from the sample she tasted!

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