While International Falls resident Dr. Kimmie Ondo wasn’t rolling on the river Friday night, she was on a roll under the big tent at the Sorting Gap Marina during the annual “Quest for the Best” singing competition.
Dr. Ondo wowed the judges with her rendition of Tina Turner’s “Proud Mary,” then bested Dylan Ossachuk in the “Battle Song” performance of “The Kid is Hot Tonite” by Loverboy.
“I’m still shocked—it feels amazing,” Dr. Ondo enthused after being awarded the $1,000 grand prize.
“I came into this thinking there’s so many talented people in this town, I’m in it for the fun,” she recalled.
“So this was a shock.”
Local singer/songwriter Maverick Judson, one of the three judges, said Dr. Ondo stood out with her ability to captivate the crowd.
“She just seemed to know exactly what the crowd wanted,” he remarked.
“She had a unique way of grabbing our attention right from the hop.”
A total of 20 contestants sang for the trio of judges and a packed crowd attending the event, which once again was organized by the Fort Frances Chamber of Commerce and held in conjunction with the Fort Frances Canadian Bass Championship.
The singers were divided into two sets of 10 performers, with a half-time show in between.
Once all the contestants sang their songs, a winner for each set was named—who then hit the stage for a “Battle Song” to determine the champion.
Ossachuk, a “Quest” veteran, earned a spot in the final with his rendition of Bon Jovi’s “Wanted Dead or Alive.”
“Can’t go wrong with Bon Jovi,” Ossachuk told the crowd before hitting the first chord on his guitar.
“Dylan has always stood out to me as a dynamite performer,” said Judson.
“Every year he impresses me more and more.
“If I was competing, I would be very intimidated by his strong voice and wicked guitar playing,” Judson added.
Dr. Ondo said she chose to perform “Proud Mary” after discussing it with her father.
“I was talking with him—he’s been a huge supporter of my singing over the years,” she explained.
“I’ve never done this type of music before.”
“He said, ‘Sing Tina Turner, you love Tina Turner,’ so he helped me pick out the song,” Dr. Ondo added.
“And the rest is history.”
Dr. Ondo said she prepared “night and day” to compete in “Quest.”
“My poor daughter is probably sick of hearing the song, all hours of the night,” she remarked.
“Trying dance moves, twisting ankles, every day,” she recalled.
The contestants were told ahead of time what the “Battle Song” would be, although Dr. Ondo admitted she did not spend much time rehearsing the tune.
“I focused more on my first song,” she noted.
“I really didn’t think I was going to go to any ‘battle,’” she conceded. “I practised it two times at home and two minutes with the band earlier [on Friday].
“When I found out I was going to be ‘battling,’ I’m like—well, it’s so much more fun.”
Dr. Ondo originally hails from Florida and moved to International Falls back in 2010.
“The people are just fabulous,” she said of the community. “When I first moved here I didn’t know a soul.
“[But] everyone was warm and welcoming, and showed me around.
“Now that I’ve had a chance to come over to the Canadian side, I’ve met some great friends tonight [Friday] and look forward to learning more about this side,” she enthused.
While Dr. Ondo took home the top prize of the night, many other accolades also were presented for stellar performances.
Atikokan resident Bryan Ribey, who had the crowd on its feet and roaring to the beat of “Jane” by Jefferson Starship, earned second place in the second set.
Ken Kellar took home second place for the first set after performing “Take It Easy” by The Eagles.
Both Adam Esselink and Dave Miller had their arms filled with hardware after the competition.
The duo both earned “People’s Choice” for their respective sets, with Esselink also capturing the “Audience Response” award while Miller was named “Band’s Choice.”
Esselink performed “Firecracker” by Josh Turner while Miller’s sang “Mama Let Him Play” by Doucette.
Waylon Smith took home the “Dark Horse” award for his combination of singing and guitar skills in his performance of Pat Green’s “Wave By Wave.”
Kenora resident Ted O’Flaherty, who wowed the crowed with his take on Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition” by adding a looper arrangement to the track, took home the “Show Stopper” award.
Orville Councillor, known as “O.C.” on stage, earned the “Rookie Award” for his performance of an original song called “Flutter of Love.”
With the latest “Quest” competition now in the books, both the performers and judges agreed the popular event was a tremendous success.
“I think a big thanks is owed to the ‘Quest’ organizers. It gets better every year,” enthused Judson, who added he’s looking forward to another year.
“Thank you, everybody, for making this happen,” echoed Dr. Ondo.
“The volunteers were amazing, the sponsors, thank you so much for this opportunity,” she said.