This is the eighth article in a series about the volunteers who graciously give of their time to ensure the success of the Wings Over the Prairie Festival and World Championship Duck Calling Contest each year.
The Stuttgart Daily Leader sat down with Kari Melnychuk, accounts payable and human resources manager at Drummond Printing, to talk to her about her volunteer position as chairman of the Queen Mallard Pageant.
"Cheryl Shook, who was chairman in 2008, asked me to work with the pageant. As chairman it is my responsibility to make sure the queen attends all activities expected of her as Queen Mallard, throughout the year,” she said.
Melnychuk was crowned the 1995 Queen Mallard or Queen Mallard XL, she recalls lightheartedly.
“I remember the roman numerals by joking that I was the XL extra large Queen Mallard so Queen Mallard,” Melnychuk said. “I know how much fun and work it can be to be Queen Mallard, which helps me quite a bit.”
As a contestant in several area pageants, Melnychuk says something that she learned about Queen Mallard is that it is one of the most fun pageants available.
For six years Melnychuk has attended meetings, dealt with sponsors, contestants, pageant mothers and in her words, "starting in October and through November, live, sleep and breathe Queen Mallard.”
While the Queen Mallard pageant is part of the Wings Over the Prairie Festival, it is also somewhat of an entity on its own. Because of this, a few different questions are in order.
DT: Does Queen Mallard have to call ducks?
KM: No, its not a requirement, but I have known several queens who were pretty impressive on a duck call. It definitely impresses the audience when the queen uses a duck call.
DT: Did you learn to blow a duck call?
KM: My grandpa, Gene Milton, made me watch hours of video trying to teach me how to blow a duck call. Back in the day, I had a mean feed call, but that’s about it.
DT: What is your favorite thing about working with the pageant?
KM:The ribbon cutting at the pageant that kicks off the festival. And of course, the crowning, because then I can breathe.
DT: What is your least favorite?
KM: Watching the reigning queen give up crown. During the year of her reign I have gotten to know and grown close to her.
DT: What would you like the readers to know that they might not?
KM: The importance of businesses on the Grand Prairie supporting this tradition. We could not have the pageant without their donations, financial support and sponsorship. We have had the same sponsors for 15-20 years and we thank and appreciate them so much. We would love to have more sponsors to participate from all over the Grand Prairie. The support from sponsors means so much to the girls and helps the pageant to get better each year. We could not have a pageant without them.
Stuttgart also could not have a pageant without dedicated volunteers, such as Melnychuk.
Melnychuk has an 8-year-old son Landon, who is in second grade at Park Avenue Elementary, and is engaged to Lance Fraize.
This year’s Queen Mallard and Junior Queen Mallard pageants will be held at 6:30 p.m. Saturday at the Grand Prairie Center.