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Colton Price, 13, of Carlton performs "The Best is Yet to Come," made famous by Frank Sinatra, during the Youth Talent Showcase at the Polk County Fair Friday.
August 14, 2012
RICKREALL -- So, I'm no Simon Cowell when it comes to picking talent. But I can say after judging the Polk County Fair Youth Talent Showcasethat "American Idol" and "America's Got Talent" should watch out.
You're soon going to be hearing the names Amanda, Hannah and Colton. No need for last names -- they're that good.
Well, I suppose for now, they are known as Amanda Rempel, Hannah Porter and Colton Price, the top three contestants in the Polk County Talent Show Youth Division.
They were accompanied by their younger counterparts including Laura Taylor, the children's division champion.
I've covered the talent show in the past, but being a judge brought an entirely new perspective to the popular fair event. Now, I truly understand what show manager Steve Springer means when he says the youth contestants "really come in and shock people."
Among my fellow judges were some actual judges -- of the Polk County Circuit Court variety -- Monte Campbell and Norm Hill.
Kristen Dollarhide, the Yamhill County Fair's talent show coordinator, and longtime talent show judge Dwaine Rhea rounded out the judging panel for the contest.
As usual for Polk County's talent show, which is open to all contestants regardless of where they live, the seats were packed.
The audience, buzzing with anticipation, was in for a treat as a gifted lineup took the stage, beginning with the children's contestants and then moving into the ultra-competitive youth division.
As for the judges -- we were in for some tough decisions.
Scores were based on points -- 65 total. Contestants could earn up to 20 points for talent, up to 15 for selection (song, act, etc.), up to 15 for stage presence, and up to 15 in bonus points -- or what Springer calls "the wow factor."
We had mere seconds after the conclusion of each act to score the contestants. Couple that with the number of talented performers -- some who even wrote their own songs -- and I had to get over my tendency to over-think everything fast.
While not much of a performer myself, I do appreciate creative talent and the courage to display it in front of a crowd to be judged.
The performers who caught my attention were those who obviously had a passion for what they were doing -- and the confidence to show it.
I wasn't alone in that opinion.
"For me, first and foremost, it's stage presence -- that confidence in who they are and what they are doing," Dollarhide said, explaining what in a performer appeals to her. "That's a way to grab the audience."
Then a second later, she added: "And talent, too."
I know what she means by that. Talent is certainly not an afterthought and it doesn't take a backseat to stage presence. But when a performer can put the two together, something just clicks. And even a newbie judge like me can see it almost immediately.
Many of Friday's performers had that combination.
"It's hard to judge," Dollarhide said.
That goes double for me, but at least a few of my fellow judges have a wider perspective.
Rhea, who says he isn't certain how long ago he began judging talent shows, has had the benefit of seeing quite a few of Polk County's regulars more than once.
"It's so cool to watch the kids grow through it over the years," he said.
Dollarhide, who has coordinated the closed (county residents only) Yamhill County talent show for six years, said it's eye-opening to judge Polk County's show.
"It's fun to see the talent from around the state," she said.
Indeed. Friday, I had the chance to see Amanda combine her powerful singing voice with impeccable comic timing in her rendition of "The Girl in 14G." Or Colton channel Frank Sinatra or Hannah, undeterred by technical difficulties, sing a cappella -- beautifully, I might add -- to thunderous cheers from the audience.
And I wouldn't be surprised if a handful of those who graced the stage Friday went much, much further than the Polk County Fair.
Jolene Guzman is a reporter covering Dallas, Falls City and Polk County at the Itemizer-Observer. She can be reached at 503-623-2373 or email@example.com.