I walked into the show venue this morning and it seemed nearly everyone was just a ball of anxious excitement. Today is Judging Day!
Judging started promptly at 9:30 am this morning with a team that featured among four of the best Koi judges in the country. Bob Winkler was head judge for this show together with Dale Gingerich, Charles Phelps and Troy Head. Some last minute cancellations due to sudden emergencies forced the Midwest Koi and Pond Society to make abrupt changes in the Judge lineup, which included the impromptu inclusion of both Charles Phelps and Troy Head as judges. Through the experienced and thorough efforts of Carolyn Phelps and Patti Gingerich at the database management system, the show’s documentation was ready, accurate and went without a hitch. Chris Carter, Paul Korf, Mike Pfeffer, Kevin Karstens and Bryan Bateman assisted the judges in bowling and viewing the Koi while Shawna Korf acted as the judge’s recorder in a layered neon green and white tank top with matching neon green clipboard. It was a match made in heaven.
I tried my hardest to film the judging under a cloak of invisibility, but while I managed to blend into the background for the judges, the lure of the camera was much too strong for some cheeky judge’s assistant who had to do a little “skit” behind his unknowing colleagues. ( All will be revealed in a few days when the video summary of the show is completed. )
Around noon, close to about the time that the judges took a lunch break, Pam Jokerst arrived at the Koi show site together with a whole bus-full people who were collectively the members of the St. Louis Koi and Water Gardening Club. They had made a field trip of the weekend and rented a bus to explore all that Chicago had to offer them in order to further their advancement in the hobby. As a young club, their members are diverse group of people whose interests are not necessarily focused only on Koi. In an effort to inspire and build enthusiasm in their club to mount their own Koi show, Rick and Pam Jokerst tirelessly organized this event so that their other club members could experience what an established Koi show is like and see for themselves the potential that Koi hold, even from just a tosai.
In order to attract more members of their club to join in on the field trip, Pam had to make sure that every member’s interest was addressed this weekend whether or not that meant the inclusion of Koi in each aspect of the schedule. That meant that the club only had a few hours allotted to spend at the Koi show before going to some other venue, such as a nursery or a botanical garden in the near vicinity. Time went by so fast and while I was unable to really get to know the club members very well, it was very moving to see the dedication that this wonderful couple has to the hobby and I am very appreciative to them for all they do to promote Koi particularly in their area.
A little after noon, Devin, Shohei and I went outside to stretch our legs (*ahem*) and were greeted by a surprising number of police cars parked just outside the sportsplex entrance. A few minutes after we had stepped out, we found out why they had come: they were heralding the arrival of Tony Geraldi. It was perfect timing too, because Devin was slated to talk to some members of the club about his experience judging the All-Japan Koi Show, so Tony and I was able to make sure that the Koi Acres booth remained constantly manned.
The show closed today at 5:00 pm and everyone was excitedly anticipating this year’s banquet, most especially me. The banquet was not only going to host a dinner and the presentation of the major awards, it was also going to be the venue for the “Wild Shorts” contest, which I had the distinct and most pleasurable honor of being asked to judge together with Ellen Kloubec! I cannot begin to express how much I had been looking forward to this moment since I had been asked to do it at the Louisville Koi Show this year. I had been jumping up and down all day, listening to hints of what they were going to wear from contestants and sneaking off to speak with Ellen about our “game plan” in anxious anticipation. I was just a ball of excitement!
The contest was the first on the agenda for the evening after everyone had finished their dinner. I ran over to Ellen so that all the contestant could parade their fancy shorts for us to decide who we felt was a contender for “Wild Shorts Grand Champion”. Koi must inspire creativity as I saw some most amazing creativity in the contestants’ presentations of their shorts, and there are few words in the English language for me to aptly describe how it went down. Thankfully, I had asked Devin and Shohei to get a video recording of our little “judging exercise” so that I may perhaps provide visual images. (Warning: It may not be for the faint of heart) I have yet to review the video to see if it does the merrymaking any justice, but I do know that the narrative of this exercise might require a separate blog post all on its own! (no promises, though!) We narrowed down the participants into our top 5 selections, then asked our audience for help in ranking the contestants through a “votation by cheer”. Long story short, here is the summary of winners:
5th Honorable Mention : Chris Carter
4th Honorable Mention : Troy Head
3rd Place : Kathleen Sims
2nd Place : Bob Mucerino
1st Place : PAUL KORF!
(Don’t ask what Paul had to endure in order to win this most coveted prize.)
In Chicago, they mostly only award the major winners during the banquet while the Best in Sizes, Best in Varieties and Friendship awards are typically presented the following day (in this case, tomorrow) at the show site. This year was special as it is a celebration of feats achieved and dreams realized.
Supreme Grand Champion as well as Reserve Grand Champion went to Tony and Diane Malone for two of their Kohaku. This was the first time for Tony to win this show and he had been anxious to obtain this title for such a long time that the expression on his face as he accepted the award was full of delight, pride and achievement.
Grand Champion B once again went to Troy Head for his gorgeous Kujaku, which had also won at the Louisville Koi show.
Mature Champion went to Paul and Shawna Korf for a beautiful Sanke that they had purchased from Koi Acres during their first year of Mud Ponds as a jumbo tosai.
Young Champion went to Mike Pfeffer for his Showa, purchased through Koi Acres during his trip to Japan last year. Incidentally, this koi had also won in Louisville!
Baby Champion A went to Michelle Reilly from Minnesota. It was so nice to see Michelle win such a high award especially since this was her first time to show outside her home club!
Baby Champion B and Best Tosai went Zack Velv, who is possibly one of the nicest people I have met.
Most Unique Koi went to Dave DeWalls for his kawarigoi. (I have yet to verify this information, but I believe it might be for his Matsukawa Bake.)
Jumbo Champion went to Bryan and Bay Bateman for their absolutely gorgeous monster Ginrin Karashigoi with an amazing large, clean head. It was just to die for.
(If I may have committed some errors, please forgive me… eyelids are starting to grow quite heavy…)
After the banquet everyone began to exit the restaurant and by the time I stepped outside, I found that the festivities were not over yet! The Taste of Westmont was going on, which meant that there were several carnival rides set up on the street just outside the banquet restaurant. Well Brenda Thomas suddenly felt the deep desire to enjoy the rides, so Dick Thomas decided to make arrangements to make sure that happened. She had her heart set on riding the “Dizzy Dragon” ride, which is essentially a rotating dragon wherein passengers get to control the speed and direction that it was spinning. Kaitlyn Korf decided she wanted to join Brenda, which was all fine and well, until Devin determined that he had to be part of the group too. Had I known sooner, I might have warned them against the idea of letting Devin join them, but I suppose I was a little too late. As soon as they were locked into the ride, Devin had an impish look on his face and a sly twinkle in his eyes that signaled that he had every intention of bringing the true essence of the ride to Brenda and Kaitlyn. On top of that the ride operator decided that it would be fun to prolong the ride a little more than normal, so by the time they got off, even Devin had to admit that he had made himself dizzy!
The night ended as it always does: by the Bateman’s Pond with perhaps a few nightcaps and a whole lot of good conversation. I cannot begin to express how much fun I had today and how grateful I feel for having the privilege of knowing such amazing people. I have one more day with everyone and while I may not be able to run into everyone, I will be sure to try to enjoy every single minute with as many people as possible.
Oyasumi Nasai! 🙂