Braving the Limelight: Franklin County Fair's Got Talent
Entrants in the children category will perform at the fair Friday on the Community Stage from 6 p.m. to about 7:30 p.m. They will be followed by acts in the adult category, which are expected to perform until about 9 p.m.
Jan Morris of Northfield says she has always considered her talent to be writing and singing parodies. She tried several times to get her one-woman act off the ground, but her dreams always fell through because she found herself needing to depend on others.
“Then, a little more than a year ago I decided to feel the fear and venture out on my own,” she said. “I wrote my character and created my own show.”
This weekend, Morris has the opportunity to prove just how good she really is during Franklin County Fair’s Got Talent. Sponsored by Yankee Candle Village in South Deerfield, it will debut at this year’s 166th annual fair on Friday beginning at 6 p.m., with 10 entries in the adult category and 13 in the children category.
At press time, the following were listed as adult contestants: Crazefaze, an all female hip-hop crew from Greenfield; Samantha Lopez of Sunderland; two dance troupes from Karen’s Dance Studio in Greenfield; Brittany from Chicopee; Megadance Zumba from Shelburne Falls; Corey Knapp from Orange; Melinda Marie from Northfield; and Legacy from Royalston. The 10th-place contestant has not yet confirmed participation.
Based loosely on the hit show “America’s Got Talent,” this local version was conceived by Steven DeJoy and other fair organizers who wanted to make the fair’s Community Stage a focal point.
“We wanted to come up with a feature event,” said DeJoy, chairman of the fair’s Attractions Committee and director of the Community Stage Program. “We’d had various acts performing in the grandstand area the past few years, but weren’t getting the turnout we wanted.”
DeJoy said that’s when they came up with an alternative.
“My fiancee suggested we do a talent show,” he said. “I ran with it and everyone followed.”
The committee partnered with local radio stations WHAI and Bear Country 95.3, Greenfield Community Television, The Recorder and the Franklin County Agricultural Society.
“It’s a work in progress this year, but we’re moving along,” he said. “If this goes well, we’ll have some experience under our belts and next year’s will be even better.”
DeJoy put a call out for talent this summer and within a couple of weeks, 33 people had submitted videos in the adult category (14 and older) and 13 had submitted videos in the category for children (13 and younger).
The public then voted through August for favorites and Morris, 58, ended up one of the top three vote-getters in her category. She will be fourth in the adult lineup Friday.
“I’m so encouraged,” she said. “I got such a good response from the general public. It goes to show that it’s never too late for anyone.”
“This is a great opportunity for exposure,” added Morris, whose stage name is Melinda Marie.
Morris will accompany herself on guitar. She said her act is geared more toward adults, so she’ll have to tone it down a bit for the fair.
“I’ve been doing this for more than a year, now,” she said. “I’ve done a lot of entertaining, including murder mystery theater, professional singing and I was a featured extra in ‘The Cider House Rules,’ but this is what I really love.”
Morris has been performing at open mics in the area for more than a year. She said with the exposure she’ll get from the talent show, she hopes to get more gigs in and out of the area and to eventually make her way onto “America’s Got Talent.”
“What I want people to know is that they can expect to pee their pants on Friday,” said Morris, who grew up in Chicago and moved to western Massachusetts several years ago.
DeJoy had hoped for a variety of acts but said that, this year, a majority will sing while several will dance.
All 13 entrants in the children category will perform Friday night, from 6 p.m. to about 7:30 p.m. on the Community Stage. They will be followed by the top 10 acts in the adult category, which are expected to perform until about 9 p.m. All performers will vie for one of the top three spots in each category. There are cash prizes of $400, $250 and $100.
A panel of three judges — WHAI morning personality Jay Fidanza, Ja’Duke Founder and Director Nick Waynelovich and former Greenfield High School Music Director Paul Calcari — will decide the winners, who will also perform during Yankee Candle Village’s Fall Festival on Sept. 27 and 28 at its flagship store in South Deerfield as part of their prize winnings.
Contestants will be judged on their stage presence, performance and their entertainment “it” factor.
Cristen Rosinski, owner of Aliber’s Bridal Boutique on Federal Street in Greenfield will serve as master of ceremonies.
DeJoy said Wednesday that “everything is falling into place” for Friday. “Even the weather is supposed to be perfect.”
The talent show is free and open to all fair-goers.
For more information on the fair, see “Fairs & Festivals” in our calendar.
Staff reporter Anita Fritz worked at The Recorder from 2002 to 2005 and then returned in 2006. She covers Greenfield and can be reached at email@example.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 280.