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An Illinois Duck Stamp Ceremony

By Randall Sherman, VSC Special Correspondent

It may come as a surprise to many, but prior to June 22, 2007, Illinois' Lake County (the state's third-largest county, located 20-45 miles north of Chicago and with a population of more than 644,000 in 2000) had never held a first day ceremony. But that dubious honor ended on June 22 as the Bass Pro Shops outlet in the Gurnee Mills Shopping Mall played host to a first day of sale ceremony for the 2007-2008 Federal Duck Stamp and Junior Duck Stamp.

About 50 people were in attendance for the 9 a.m. ceremony. The early hour was set up so that Bass Pro Shops across the country (42 in all) would simultaneously release the new stamps at the same time. The official first Day of issue ceremony for the stamps were held at the Springfield, Missouri, corporate headquarters of Bass Pro Shops, which supplies gear and supplies to many of the hunters and outdoorsmen who will be using the Duck Stamp for its original purpose, as a federal duck hunting permit.

In addition to the author, there as Editor of the Chicago Philatelic Society Bulletin (in addition to my capacity as a board member of the American Ceremony Program Society), the 50 people who attended the ceremony included CPS Member Charles Berg and Member Applicant Richard Favish (another ACPS board member, who came with his wife Jackie). Berg, the owner/operator of Stamp King (Chicago's primary philatelic store), had a display of past duck stamps on a side table as an added feature of the ceremony. This was done in conjunction with Tim Ratliff of the USPS Northern Illinois District office, who helped coordinate the event.

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Charles Berg, the owner/operator of Chicago's Stamp King store, points out details from the pages of duck stamp material he had on display at the ceremony site.

Richard and Jackie Favish are a staple at many stamp ceremonies, including this one. Richard Favish is a board member of the American Ceremony Program Society.

Scott Grant, the general manager of the Bass Pro Shops Gurnee store, served as Master of Ceremony.

Cub Scout Pack 37 of Gurnee served as the Color Guard for the opening of the ceremony.

Justin Rich of the Fifth Third Bank branch in nearby Libertyville gave a presentation about the history of the Federal Duck Stamp Program.

As there are no Bass Pro Shops in Wisconsin, Kent Van Horn, a Migratry Game Bird Ecologist for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, spoke at the Gurnee ceremony. (Gurnee Mills is less than a 15-minute drive from the Wisconsin state line.) Van Horn told the audience that the proceeds from the Duck Stamp program have helped to protect some 500 million acres of wildlife habitat in America, including a number of wildlife refuges in Wisconsin.

Roy Domazlicky, a Waterfowl Biologist for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, noted that Illinois ranks 7th in Duck Stamp sales, but admitted, "It's rather humbling that Wisconsin has purchased a few more stamps." Domazlicky said there are ten refuges in Illinois that have benefited from the proceeds of the Duck Stamps over the years.

Gurnee Mayor Kristina M. Kovarik noted, "It is a very important event for Gurnee." It wasn't until after the ceremony that Mayor Kovarik was told that this was the first such ceremony ever held in Lake County.

The actual unveiling was done by a USPS staffer, without much fanfare. (Remember, they had never done this before.)

Gurnee Postmaster Becky Sikora speaks as the other ceremony participants (and some stuffed heads as well) look on at the front of the Gurnee Bass Pro Shops store.

Mayor Kovarik forks over $20 for the ceremonial first $15 2007-2008 Federal Duck Stamp and the first $5 2007-2008 Junior Duck Stamp sold in Gurnee.

Following the ceremony, the participants stayed to sign the programs, which were printed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. It appears that the program, except for the inside front page that listed the Gurnee ceremony participants, was of a common design also used at the other first day ceremonies that day across the country.

One of the guests at the ceremony was Christina Van Dellen of the Lake County community of Lindenhurst, who won this year's Illinois Junior Duck Stamp competition. Here Van Dellen is showing her state-winning design (which competed for the right to be the national Junior Duck Stamp for this year) to Postmaster Sikowa.

Van Dellen signs the enlarged image of the Federal duck stamp used at the ceremony, as did the ceremony participants. Perhaps one day she will be signing her own design at a Duck Stamp ceremony.

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