by Bruce Strand, Arts editor
Most of the contestants were singers, but dancers captured two of the three top prizes in the Sherburne County Fair Talent Contest on Saturday.
The breakdancing and rapping teen trio of Fanaka Ndege, Dupre Robinson and Josh Walbot from Elk River charmed the audience and judges enough to beat out some excellent vocalists for the Open first prize.
So did 11-year-old Morgan Bianchi of Elk River, who clog-danced to first place in Pre Teen.
The lone singer placing first was Jasmine Carr, 17, of Zimmerman in the Teen division, but there were many impressive vocalists, many of whom didn’t place.
There were 35 acts in all, 25 of them them singers, seven dance, and three instrumental.
Four judges rated all the acts.
The entertainment was mostly country, as might be expected at a county fair, but the dance trio — calling themselves “Sher-Bounce” — lent a definite urban flavor to the show for their three minutes. Ndege pumped up the tempo as he belted out a rap number he wrote himself while the loose-jointed boys shook and shimmied and sometimes soared (including a back flip by Ndege).
Ndege and Robinson placed second at ERHS’s Star Fest in May under a different name. They added Wolbot for the fair contest.
“We call ourselves different things,” grinned Robinson. “This is the Sherburne fair, so today we went by Sher-Bounce.”
Placing second in Open was the oldest contestant, Mark Frandsen of Big Lake, who showcased a lovely tenor voice as he absolutely nailed “Cara Mia My,” one of the most difficult pop songs an amateur singer could attempt. Frandsen, whose daughter and grandson were also vocal entrants, could easily be a popular club entertainer but he said his music experience is mostly the family singing together and some karaoke.
About the 1965 hit by Jay and the Americans that he sang, so demanding that it includes falsetto and requires holding notes for several seconds, he smiled, “That’s one of my better ones (songs). My family says it’s my one-trick pony.”
Placing third in Open was Kari Peterson, 25, of St. Cloud, singing “Unchained Melody.”
Bianchi, who waltzed and whirled to “Boogie Woogie Fiddle Country Blues” in a red and white cowgirl outfit, has been dancing and winning a lot this summer. She placed first in the Hennepin County Fair, won a dance festival in Big Lake and took second in a Zimmerman contest.
“I used to play softball,” she said when asked what her other athletic pursuits are, “but then dance won out and that’s what I do now.”
Emily Smith, 11, of Ramsey, was polished and poised well behind her years as she strummed the guitar and sang
Sugarland’s “Down in Mississippi.”
Smith tied for second in the judges point system with a P.S. Dance Studio group that rocked and rolled to “Jailhouse Rock” (not the Elvis version but a Chanhassen Theatre tape).
With the second-place tie, the judges awarded a third-place award to Briggitte Neuman,11, of Anoka, who sang, “The Devil Went Down to Georgia.”
Teen winner Carr entered a contest for the first time and won as she churned out “The Climb,” a Miley Cyrus song, with a warm, smooth, sincere delivery.
“I sing in the school choir, and I sing in my church, in Princeton,” said Carr, when asked about her musical resume.
Vocalists nabbed all three slots in Teen.
Gabrielle Arthur, 15, of Watertown, had an elegant look and sound as she sang “Time to Say Goodbye” in a wine-colored gown to place second. Also a pianist, dancer, volleyball player and community theatre performer, she said contests like this are “what I do in the summer” and she’s done well at several county fairs over the years.
Placing third was Paige Huschka, 13, of Monticello, singing “Rolling in the Deep.”
The first-place winners are eligible to compete in the state fair.