One of the questions raised was "why do some awards seem to be silly?" ... using the example of Best Use of String or Best Alien Couple.
While it's generally understood that there are some standard awards. "Best in Class", "Best Recreation", "Best Humour" and (of course) "Best in Show" and/or "Judges' Choice". But what's with the other ones?
Generally they are to recognise work done that (usually) is just/almost as good as something that wins an award ... like "Best Humour". Or it could be that the judges just want to recognise something that doesn't really fall into any 'category'. And when it comes to workmanship, maybe the WHOLE costume isn't going to win, but a particular part - like having "Best Fabric Painting" recognised. In fact, the costumer is free to ask the workmanship judge to just look at one particular piece of work. ("Ignore the unfinished hems and look at the beadwork on the breast-piece.")
Judging a masquerade is very subjective ... just like - oh - figure skating. (NOOOOOOOOO!!!!)
There are as many ways of judging as there are masquerades. Let's look at one way ... Each judge rates the costume presentation on a scale of 1 (low) to 10 (high). Then the marks are totalled and averaged to give a final score. The judges then deliberate amongst all their marks to decide on whish gets what award (if any).
Does everybody win and award? Sometimes. But that is generally felt to cheapen everybody's efforts. Do friends of teh judges win? ... Sometimes yes - somtimes no. It depends on the judge and the competitor.
The judges also have the capability to pull out one of teh presentations that may have been marked poorly but, on second thought, that they'd like to recognise something about.
Then there's the talk of celebrity judges. One reason why many masquerades are getting out of this practice and using experienced masqueraders is the integirty of the judging. When was the last time you saw a "Judge's Room Key" award given out? Some celebrities have a keener focus on what to look for ... and they also have the experience costumer judges to 'help' them if making harder decisions.
Oh ... And audience judging (like for "Audience Favourite")? While it does lend itself more to "fixing" or stuffing a ballot box ... why not? This is supposed to be a fun hobby, isn't it? Personally, I'm for it. I'm just not sure it can be done practically. Many people have come up with different ideas over the years and none really were determined to be somewhat representative and/or relatively quick in returning results. So if anybody can come up with an idea on how ... mention it! :D