In a combination talent show and telethon, Chewelah Community Radio hosted a fundraiser influenced by national competitions such as the X Factor, America's Got Talent, and American Idol to come up with an entertaining event featuring local talent, cash prizes, and celebrity impersonated judges. The "Chewelah's Got Talent" finale took place May 4 at the Chewelah Civic Center where 19 acts of all ages from Chewelah, Valley and Addy competed for $1,500 in cash prizes.
Valley resident Shannon McNeil, 16, took first place for $600 with a fiddle performance of "The Orange Blossom Special." He was the last contestant of the evening before judges scores and audience votes were tallied.
McNeil, also known as "Smokin' Strings," has been playing the fiddle since he was 11. He won first place at the 2012 Fiddlers on the Peak competition and placed fifth at the Washington State Fiddlers Competition.
"I couldn't have done any of this without dad's help. He started us all in music," McNeil said. "I definitely got talent from my parents." McNeil is the son of Steve and Stacey McNeil.
He said the prize money from Chewelah's Got Talent will help him rebuild a 1979 El Camino he plans to use for the screen-printing business he started two years ago called Northwest Tees.
Jenkins High School freshman Merideth Kirry placed second in the contest to win $400 for singing "Dream a Little Dream of Me," which included a trumpet solo she said she had just come up with the day before.
"I didn't know how it was going to go, but it ended up working out just fine," Kirry said.
Kirry participates in the JHS jazz band, along with the concert and pep bands, and has always enjoyed singing. She also participates in the weekly JHS broadcast club that meets every Wednesday. Kirry said she is really excited to be recognized and felt like a celebrity for the first time when young girls excitedly asked her to sign their programs during intermission.
"I am so glad to have entertained everyone, especially in support of community radio," Kirry said.
Cristian Parrish, a 15-year resident of Chewelah, took the third place prize of $200 for playing instrumental music on an African percussion instrument called the Balafon. He started playing the Balafon after learning drums helped him through therapy while recovering from a spinal cord injury. He said he entered the contest to meet other performers, get some local notoriety, and "get more like minded artists together," Parrish said.
His Balafon was made by a small African tribe and took three months for them to make and ship, Parrish said.
Four other performers were awarded $50 prizes for Honorable Mentions:
Aaron Gabriel, vocal/guitar, "Hunger" (original song)
Ivan Joyce, electric guitar, "Crazy Train"
Elena Markham, piano, "Waterfall" (original song)
Jesse Timm, vocal/guitar, "To War, Pacifist" (original song)
A $50 prize was also awarded for best costume to Sean Taboloff and Kathleen Malcolm with their vocal dramatic performance of "A Song That Goes Like This" and a final $50 prize was awarded for most original performance to 2 Dudes and 11 Strings (Shea McNeil and Seth Hubbard) who performed "Salt Creek" on the banjo and guitar.
The remaining featured performers were:
Emma Larsen, vocal, "The Fields of Athenry"
Lily Kirry, vocal, "Almost There"
David Colvin, vocal/guitar, "Get My Guitar, Get the Blues"
Mallorie Powell, dance, Ballet from "Spartacus"
Stephen Zerr, vocal, "I'm Yours"
Elizabeth "Liz" Taft, vocal, "Turning Tables"
Jimmy and Tommy Kirry, vocal/dance, "Life's A Happy Song"
Lindsay Merl, vocal, "White Rabbit"
Jean Jones, vocal/guitar, "How to Talk Dirty in Hawaiian"
Melanie Huff, dance, "China Roses"
Chewelah's Got Talent was also a successful fundraiser for Chewelah Community Radio as it raised $1,100 in profits for the station to help "Raise the Antenna." To make money, they charged admission, sold concessions, and charged $1 for each audience vote. They also sold event t-shirts printed on site by Northwest Tees.
The event was webcast live on www.KCHW.org for those out of town to be able to pledge their money as well. At one point, host Scott Schlafman announced that they received a $100 donation from Western Washington, and, overall, received about 10 pledges total from listeners outside of Chewelah.
Director and Producer Schelley Schlafman said she was just happy to break even but the new funds will allow them to start purchasing needed equipment. Their goal is to get the big antenna to full range and finish construction by July in time for Chataqua. A federal mandate has ordered them to accomplish it by 2014.
Although the event ran a little long, over three and a half hours, Schelley was proud of the show they put together and the local talent they were able to feature.
"It was totally awesome," Scott said and thought it was great how most everyone stuck through to the end.
Schelley said 45 people auditioned during the two weekends prior to the finale and 22 made it to the event, although a few had to back out due to illness. She said the show featured talented performers even she had not seen before even though she is around the Chewelah entertainment scene.
The contest's judging panel consisted of celebrity impersonators: Bill Barnes as Steven Tie-Dye-ler, Lori Londagin (along with Alison Stevens who filled in for more than half of the show) as Mariah Scary, Rob Floyd as David Hassel-scoff, Donjrai Dixon as Sticki Minaj, and Clint Kirry as Simon Towel. The contestants were judged on a 1-10 scale in originality, costume, and overall performance.
The judges mixed comedy with some positive feedback with the exception of Kirry (as Towel) who offered cruel but fake criticism to each performer similar to what one would expect from Simon Cowel.
Although all four of his children competed in the contest, Kirry did not let them off any easier (his scores were not calculated in the totals for those he was related to). For example, he told his fifth grade daughter Lily that her family should be embarrassed by her performance but she retorted with, "Well I would hate to be your daughter!"
The judges even fit sponsor plugs within their commentary to recognize many local businesses who helped underwrite the event. Dixon said one performer was "as multi-talented" as Hansen Logging and Barnes said having T&M Restoration alongside you related to the song that Jim and Tom Kirry sang together as brothers.
Lots of laughs were had throughout the night, but many audience members agreed that the range of talent featured was impressive.
One person commented on Elena Markham's piano performance by saying, "This girl doesn't even belong in Chewelah, she belongs in Carnegie Hall."
To view the entire show, go to www.kchw.org for the full-recorded webcast.
By Kellie Trudeau, The Independent Staff
In This Photo: Shannon McNeil plays â€śThe Orange Blossom Specialâ€ť on the fiddle to win first prize of $600. Michael Barone photo