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Duck callers converge in Stuttgart

by Eplunus Colvin | December 6, 2021 at 2:08 a.m.
Children ages 4-8 meet at the Stuttgart stage to learn the basics of duck calling. (Special to the Commercial)

A duck-loving time was had as thousands of visitors flocked to southeast Arkansas for the 86th World's Championship Duck Calling Contest and Wings Over the Prairie Festival, a Thanksgiving tradition held in Stuttgart that was canceled last year because of covid-19.

The chain of events kicked off Nov. 20 in Stuttgart with the Queen Mallard and Junior Queen Mallard pageants.

The 2021 Junior Queen Mallard winner was Tanner Weaver and the 2021 Queen Mallard was Madelyn Maynard, both of whom were the official hosts of the events.

Nov. 21 drew shoppers to Main Street to visit novelty shops in Stuttgart's Downtown Shopping District.

The long-awaited carnival and midway opened on Thanksgiving eve.

Families enjoyed carnival rides, games, and savory and sweet food along the way.

The carnival and midway operated through the remainder of the week, including Thanksgiving day, giving families a fun outlet after stuffing themselves with turkey and all the trimmings.

For anyone living in a 1-mile radius of downtown Stuttgart, they likely were awakened by the sound of children blowing their duck calls.

The children's duck calling class, for ages 4-8, met at the Stuttgart stage at 8 a.m. to learn the basics of duck calling.

The Arts and Crafts Fair, the Sporting Collectibles Show and outdoor exhibits exposed shoppers to custom-made duck calls, hunting apparel and customized products that would be hard to find at a retail store.

Many new attractions graced the 2021 festival, including a heated Beer Garden for relaxation while watching football on the 100-inch projector screen.

If one looked up in the sky, ducks weren't the only things flying. Hot air balloons soared over the blue Stuttgart skies from north to south, giving guests a bird's-eye view of all the city had to offer.

The Chick & Sophie Major Memorial Duck Calling Contest allowed high school seniors graduating in 2022 to compete for college scholarships totaling $4,250 for the top four competitors.

Spencer Malone of Beebe won the contest with the grand prize scholarship of $2,000.

The first runner-up was Julia Ryan of Stuttgart; second runner-up was Wes Clayton of Hazen; and third runner-up was Maynard, of Stuttgart.

Several duck calling contests were held Friday afternoon, including the Arkansas State Qualifying Duck Calling Contest for Arkansas residents only, as well as the Intermediate World Champion Duck Calling Contest.

Drake Butler of Hope won the Arkansas State Qualifying Duck Calling Contest.

The first runner-up was Brent Calhoun of Des Arc; second runner-up was Devlin Hodges of Bald Knob; and third runner-up was Will McBride of Benton.

The Last Chance Regional included winner Brent Calhoun of Des Arc; first runner-up Jonah Carter of Stuttgart; second runner-up Will McBride of Benton; and third runner-up Forrest Carvajal of Greenbrier.

Between Thanksgiving leftovers and carnival food, the Great 10k/5k Duck Race sponsored by Baptist Health gave fitness enthusiasts an opportunity to channel their inner athlete that Saturday morning.

More than 200 runners lined up at 8 a.m. to compete for 6.2 miles, while others opted for the 3.1-mile race during the Wings Over the Prairie Festival.

At the same time, duck calling contests were happening on the Main Street Stage throughout Saturday morning.

Todd Copley won the Senior World's Champion Duck Calling Contest, and Julia Ryan won the Women's World Duck Calling Contest.

The festival wouldn't be a festival without the 40th anniversary World's Champion Duck Gumbo Cookoff, sponsored by Michelob Ultra and Ludwig Distributing Co.

The Producers Rice Mill parking lot was transformed into a Mardi Gras Tent Party, with several hundred in attendance for one of the most popular events at the Wings Over the Prairie Festival.

Teams competed in a gumbo pot cook-off, where half of the meat used in the recipe was duck. Teams also competed for the best booth design.

War Eagle Gumbo, under head cook Tucker Ward, won the Gumbo cook-off, while Best Booth went to Mouton Roux, whose booth mirrored a New Orleans balcony with beads for party participants as they walked by.

The party under the tent concluded with the Aces Wild Band, which entertained the crowds with its high-powered energy, musical talent and extraordinary vocals.

The moment everyone was waiting for, the 86th annual World's Championship Duck Calling Contest, began at 2 p.m. on the Main Street Stage.

New sponsors for the contest included Pine Bluff's Saracen Casino and RightFiber by Ritter Communications, which joined Mack's Prairie Wings, Winchester Ammunition, Benelli, Purina Petcare and Lennox Industries.

After 56 contestants, three rounds, nine tiebreakers and over seven hours of duck calling, Haiden Richard of Erath, La., was named the champion.

First runner-up was Jonathan Mortin from Beebe; second runner-up was Michael Steinmeyer of Jackson, Mo.; and third runner-up was Domingo Sanchez of Inman, Kan.

The top finishers included: fourth runner-up Vincent Marsiglia III of Tickfaw, La.; fifth runner-up Trey Morris of Oxford, Miss.; sixth runner-up Slayton Gearin of Friendship, Tenn.; seventh runner-up Colby Stilwell of Willows, Calif.; eighth runner-up Brent Calhoun of Des Arc; ninth runner-up Matt Rustad of Lakeville, Minn; and 10th runner-up Daniel Goetz of Columbia, Ill.

A contest that happens every five years was also held, pitting the best of the best in a friendly duck calling event called the Champion of Champions.

The Champion of Champions winner was Michael Steinmeyer of Jackson, Mo., who was also the 2019 Wings Over The Prairie World's Championship Duck Calling Contest winner.

First runner-up went to Phil Green II of Weiner; second runner-up was Brad Allen of Judsonia; and third runner-up was David St. John of Conway.

Winners of the World's Championship Duck Calling Contest are awarded over $50,000 in cash and prizes, including a specially designed and crafted championship ring created by Wilkerson Jewelers.

Other prizes include $10,000 in cash, a War Eagle Duck Boat, a Yuengling fire pit and cooler, Miller Lite Barrel Grill, a year's supply of Purina Dog Food, ammunition and a Benelli shotgun, to name a few.

"After 12 years of doing the festival, it never ceases to amaze me how many incredible people come out to pull this weekend off," said Stuttgart Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Bethany Hildebrand, who credited her many festival volunteers. "We work 11 months toward making this weekend go as smoothly as possible."

Hildebrand estimated the event brought in 20,000 people, with roughly 2,700 at the gumbo cook-off. Financials are still being calculated, but in past years the festival has brought in a generous amount of revenue for the city.

"To all the sponsors, businesses who donate, and attendees and callers that travel from across the country, thank you for your unwavering support and for making 2021 one to remember," said Hildebrand. "We are blessed with so many people who make this event so successful."

  photo  Producers Rice Mill parking lot in Stuttgart transformed into a Mardi Gras Tent Party to accommodate the 40th Anniversary World’s Champion Duck Gumbo Cookoff. (Special to the Commercial)
 
 
  photo  Teams compete in a gumbo pot cookoff where half of the meat used in the recipe is duck. (Pine Bluff Commercial/Eplunus Colvin)
 
 
  photo  Families enjoy the midway and carnival during the Wings Over the Prairie Festival in Stuttgart. (Pine Bluff Commercial/Eplunus Colvin)
 
 
  photo  Haiden Richard of Erath, La., was named the 2021 86th Annual World’s Champion Duck Calling Champion. (Special to the Commercial)
 
 
  photo  Families enjoy the midway and carnival during the Wings Over the Prairie Festival in Stuttgart. (Pine Bluff Commercial/Eplunus Colvin)
 
 

Print Headline: Duck callers converge in Stuttgart

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