by Bruce Strand, Arts editor
New York City native James Pool was one of the prize-winners at the Sherburne County Fair talent contest on Saturday. Before leaving the fairgrounds, Pool complimented the younger contestants from rural Minnesota he watched while waiting his turn.
“I’m glad we didn’t have to compete against the kids!” said Pool, with a grin. “Those kids were awesome!”
Pool, who attends college in St. Cloud, and Big Lake native Joey Whiteoak won the Open division with a rock band performance.
Meanwhile, 10-year-old Madelyn Huscka of Monticello won the pre-teen division and 16-year-old Kelly Lawless of Cannon Falls took the teen division.
First-place winners advance to the state fair’s competition. Second- and third-place prizes were also awarded.
Pool was talking about the whole field of youngsters, including 15 teen entrants and nine pre-teen entrants.
Indeed there was more talent on display than prizes to go around. Among those not called to the podium were a 12-year-old Anoka girl who sang her own CW composition about being true to yourself (“I may not be the prettiest/or the tallest or the skinniest/but I’m all right, babe, I’m all right”) and a spindly black-haired boy about nine who did Michael Jackson moonwalk that the crowd loved.
Whiteoak and Pool, competing as the rock band Broken Record, performed an original tune “Dirty Dose of Daily Deeds,” which is about “anything you can do too much of in one day,” said Pool. Whiteoak said the band is St. Cloud-based, got started three months ago, and has two other members who couldn’t make it.
Jimmy Wood of Big Lake took on a Zach Brown Band look (including beanie) and sang “Toes,” placing second. Wood said he’s sung at weddings and national anthems at games but had not done a competition in many years. “My mom pushed me (to compete) and my brother picked the song,” he said. “I’ just supplied the voice!”
Lawless won the teen division with an energetic rendition of “Done,” by The Band Perry. “I’m very excited to win this year,” said Lawless, who took second here last year but qualified for the state fair at another venue. Lawless said she does star-search tryouts as a country singer, and some county fairs “hoping to win some money, of course, and go to the state fair.”
Two dance acts snared prizes in the teen division. Brendan Davis and Emily Vetter, both 13, of Monticello, were second, dancing to “Zuit Soot Riot.” Tying for third were a foursome called Star Power, doing a clog dance, along with singer Gabrielle Arthur, 17, a Delano senior-to-be.
Arthur, who sang “Astonishing” from the play “Little Women,” has made the top three here three straight years. She plans to attend an Eastern college and pursue musical theatre, said her mother.
Star Power, a competition group from Barbara Lee Studio in Monticello, included Emmalee Woods, 15, of Annandale; Mackenzie Weis, 15, of Annandale; Kaitlin Starkey, 14, of Big Lake; and Breanna Fitzpatrick, 13, of Monticello.
Huschka won pre-teen, singing “New York State of Mind” with a big voice and an ability hold notes for several seconds. She said it was her first solo competition, but she has sung with older sisters Alyssa and Paige at Monticello River Fest’s non-competition talent show since she was four. “I was nervous at first but once I started to sing it all went away,” she said. She picked the song she sung because she heard it on her favorite show, “Glee.”
Alison Hudson, 11, took second, singing “Mamma’s Broken Heart,” and Ella Dipprey, 10, of Elk River, placed third, singing “Pups.”
The teen division had 11 solo singers, two solo guitarists, and two dance acts. Pre-teen had eight singers (one of whom also danced) and the boy who danced.Open had just four entrant this year and two were DQ’d for background music or going too long, but the two who got prizes were quality acts.