By Gary Koehler, Senior Writer
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You know the neighborhood is friendly when the radio station's call letters are KWAK and a greenhead graces the front page of the newspaper on a daily basis. Breakfast can be ordered at the Mallard Restaurant, which is right across the street from the Best Western Duck Inn. The mayor is a former world duck calling champion. And more Winchester steel shotgun shells are sold at the local sporting goods store than any other retail outlet in the world. Can life get any better than this?
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Well, yes, if one chooses to join a cast of 30,000 the second weekend of the Wings Over the Prairie Festival. This is when Stuttgart shuts down six blocks on Main Street and rolls out a feathered carpet. Some visitors come to watch the World's Champion Duck Calling Contest, which in November will celebrate its 67th anniversary. Others opt for the annual Sportsman's Dinner and Dance, duck gumbo cook-off, the chili luncheon, carnival rides, arts and crafts fair, 10K run, clay bird fun shoot, sporting collectibles show, off-road vehicle track, and duck dog contest.
"And everybody comes downtown to see the commercial exhibits because a lot of times you will see the latest gear and apparel before it even gets into retail stores. Companies will come here to test-market new products," says Stephen Bell, executive vice president of the Stuttgart Chamber of Commerce, which sponsors the duck calling contest and assists in coordinating other festival events.
"We could not put on the festival without volunteers," Bell adds. "If we tried to pay people for all the things that are required to put on the festival, we just would not be able to do it."