I just finished up a 4 day run of judging for the NHC Indy Regional. I have to say that I'm dissappointed and am ranting to get the ball rolling on things that MUST change regarding the fees charged and support provided by AHA for the NHC.
Needless to say, NHC is a huge undertaking. Through the hard work of hundreds of judges, stewards, organizers, and sponsors, it does get done. The problem that is occuring is that there isn't enough support provided to the people that run and organize these contests and the popularity of the NHC continues to grow. Clearly, the law of supply and demand is not being followed and its time to comment on it.
At many of the regional competitions, the pool of highly qualified judges in a locality is limited and getting additional judges from the region is needed. I was very pleased to see judges at the Indy Regional that traveled up to 6 hours to participate. My hat was off to them! But I wouldn't have traveled that far for the lunch and door prize that they recieved. The few judge experience points are poor compensation for the hundreds of dollars that some of those judges probably shelled out for travel, lodging, and meal expenses. There needs to be a significant change to the program to correct that.
In talking with Janice (NHC Coordinator) over the years, I know that the contest is expensive as is and that is with the limited support they currently provide to the regional contests. The popularity of the contest is unquestioned, as the entry quotas are exhausted in short order. Given the need for additional support at the regional contests, the costs to run the competition are going to rise significantly. Therefore, the entry fees need a commensurate increase.
Judges traveling more than about 50 miles need to be compensated for their travel and other expenses to make it worth their while to make the trip. Before too long, the only judges showing up will be the locals and they will have to deal with the 750 entry pool themselves. See how long any of those overworked local judges stick in there after they have spent days at the contest. Then you won't even have the locals participating.
In my opinion, a daily stipend for judges traveling over (50?) miles is needed now. Those are the folks that are critical to the contest execution and they are too far from home to make the drive back after a couple of sessions. They are footing their bill for travel and lodging and the contestants need to be paying for that. In addition, better meal support needs to be provided. A single lunch is not cutting it. If its a full day of judging, then at least 2 meals need to be provided. If its just a half day of judging, then a single meal should be provided.
These incentives only serve to offset the cost of judging and organizer participation since there will always be the significant contribution of time that would be hard to equitably compensate. The potential is that the entry fees for NHC could easily double. Given the popularity of the event, it may not make a dent in the entry numbers. But at least there would be higher likelihood that an adequate number of qualified judges would show up. If these changes are not implimented, there is the distinct possibility that NHC Regional contests could fail (ie. not enough judges show up to complete the contest in a timely manner).
Again, my hat is off to you hardy souls that contributed your time and money to participate as an organizer or judge in the NHC. You have gone above and beyond. That needs to change!
PS: These same arguments apply to any local contest too. Organizers, If you're wondering why you can't get judges to participate, you need to make it somewhat worth their while. The days of the low entry fee are over.