The stars were out in International Falls last Thursday night when 20 country music enthusiasts performed before a packed Roadhouse in hopes of being named the winner of the Jimmy Dean Country Showdown.
“Port Of Call,” a band from Duluth, Mn., came away with the top honours.
Winning the judges over with an energetic performance of their original song, “Riding Through the Night,” the band now goes on to the state competition later this year, possibly in Bemidji.
Heather Evans of Grand Rapids placed second while Lancaster’s Kim Carlson took third.
The top three finalists received prize packages, including baseball tickets, dinner-theatre passes, and hotel accommodations from local radio station KGHS.
Nine of the 20 acts were from Northwestern Ontario, with three of those placing in the top six. Melanie Bodnar of Fort Frances came fifth, impressing the crowd with her strong voice and stage presence as she sang the Leann Rimes song “Commitment.”
“I had a wonderful time,” said Bodnar, who had taken top honours at the annual “Quest for the Best” talent show here back in February in conjunction with the Little Amik Winter Carnival.
“The competition was definitely great,” she added. “I was shocked to see that much talent there.”
“Wild Ransom,” a Stratton duo of Kelly Olson and Scott Downs, placed sixth, singing a song written by Downs entitled “Walking Down Your Street.” The tune showcased their vocal harmonies, and was well complemented by their on-stage “chemistry.”
“It was nerve-wracking but fun,” enthused Olson. “I think we would polish up a bit [next year], and maybe work on some more original material.”
One of the pleasant surprises of the evening was Charity Rose, a 12-year-old from Dryden who amazed everyone with her powerful yodelling rendition of “I Wanna Be A Cowboy Sweetheart.”
She placed fourth.
Other Canadian competitors included Garry Mathewson, Barry Pollard, and Alyson Booth of Fort Frances, Linda Enge of Devlin, 11-year-old Courtenay Jourdain of Lac La Croix, and Anissa Armstrong of Kenora.
All the acts, except for “Port of Call,” were backed up by local band, “The Poor Boys,” whose versatility suited each act.
The event, promoted by Special Promotions Inc. (SPI) of Nashville, Tn., was organized by Nancy Kantor of International Falls, who previously had been involved with several “Quest for the Best” talents shows here.
“Unlike ‘Quest for the Best,’ this was a lot more serious,” said Kantor, referring to the acts that were intent on trying to advance their music careers.
She also said they had people who had never performed before but still managed to really communicate with the crowd.
“I’m glad everybody had a good time,” Kantor added. “We’ll probably do it again next year.”