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The Art Of The Decoy

Ocean County YMCA's 28th Annual Art and Decoy show runs from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. today

The duck decoys lined the tables and bobbed in tanks at the first day of the 's 28th Annual Art and Decoy Show at

Veteran decoy judge Don Dobrosky and his fellow judges made their way slowly up and down the aisles, looking for what makes a winner.

Dobrosky has a cardinal rule - does the duck's profile capture the essense of how it would look in real life, in a natural setting?

"Everything else is immaterial," he said.

It also helps to be a longtime duck hunter, like Dobrosky and many of the other judges.

"The hunter sees them consistently, all the time," said Dobrosky, who is vice-president of the . "The hunter always comes out right with his evaluation, because he sees it in the wild. There's no substitute."

The two-day show drew hundreds of visitors yesterday, said Janet Sellitto, special events coordinator for the Ocean County YMCA.

"It's been pretty steady," Sellitto said. "This morning it was very busy. A lot of people are buying. The exhibitors are happy so far."

For W. Fred Reitmeyer, Jr., decoy carving is a family tradition. He learned his craft from his grandfather, who began carving at 15 and never stopped until he died at 90.

"I taught my four kids and I have two grandsons I taught to carve," he said.

While the Pomona resident focuses primarily on decoys, he also carves replicas of  the classic Barnegat Bay sneakbox, complete with minature duck decoys.

But the show isn't all decoys. There are plenty of hands-on, free activities for children, including decoy painting, decoy soap carving, basket weaving and making duck masks.

Shamong resident Joyce C. Gagen was the featured artist of the show. Gagen's watercolors feature a variety of South Jersey waterfowl, birds, animals and beach scenes.

Gagen, a graduate of the Philadelphia College of Art, says the YMCA's annual show is like "coming home." She's been exhibiting at the show for the past 20 years.

It takes her roughly 21 hours to complete a painting, she said.

"I do four hours at a time," she said. "I like everything clean and fresh. It has to feel right."

Nicole Yohnnson and Kara Prevost were in one of the middle aisles, selling homemade candles and dog biscuits to support the Burlington County K-9 Search and Rescue. The non-profit organization provides K-9 dogs to assist local police and fire departments in emergencies, Yohnnson said.

One of them, 6-month-old Arrow, a chocolate Labrador Retriever, alternately enthusiastically greeted visitors and napped on the floor during the show.

Yohnnson and her husband started the rescue dog group two years ago. Yohnnson and Prevost formed their Southern Scents and Specialities to help support the K-9 group. They donate a dollar to the K-9 group for every order they receive for their baked goods and candles.

Nearby, Master Basketmaker Debra Simpson had a full table of children working on their own berry baskets. Simpsons is one of only two people in New Jersey to hold the title of "master basketmaker."

She and business partners Betsy McCusker and Diamond Frandsen own the Lacey Township-based "Ivy Cottage," which specializes in baskets and other craft items.

The Art and Decoy show runs from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. today at Central Regional High School off Forest Hills Parkway in Bayville. Admission is $5 for adults and children over 12. Children 12 and under are admitted for free.

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