Song choice is a key for winning Star performers

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Jason Smathers
Thursday, July 29, 2010
— If nothing else, Alex Lentz’s song choice would win some praise from his girlfriend.

The 16-year-old Craig High School student dedicated the ’90s ballad “I’ll Be” to his girlfriend and belted out a rather mature rendition at the Rock County 4-H Fair’s Star competition. The contest, in its seventh year, was broken into three age groups: 8-13, 14-17 and adults.

But along with capturing the hearts of the audience, he snagged one of the singing contest’s $1,000 prizes.

“It (the song) means a lot to me,” Lentz said. “I wanted to pick something other than a country song.”

And while many competitors did choose country music selections to show off their pipes, quite a few opted for things a bit more rocking.

Lyle Gors, whose daughter Paige also competed, kicked off the adult competition with a version of Bon Jovi’s “Bed of Roses” that sounded more akin to Meat Loaf, with a bellowing chorus and powerful vibrato. In the 8-13 division, Alyssa Dekelver of Janesville, turned out a modern, rocking cover of “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” bopping about the stage in a slightly pop-punk style skirt and vest.

But it was still a good day for country and an even better day for Janesville’s Brooke Nunn. Nunn, 12, a veteran of the competition, won the 8-13 division on her third attempt at the annual competition with Sara Evans’ “Suds in the Bucket.” A group of about 100 friends and fans crowded the left side of the stage with homemade shirts and signs to cheer her on.

“I just worked harder and worked more on my vocals,” Nunn said.

Janesville resident Angela Sokolik was an amateur in comparison. Singing is just a hobby for the mother and gas station employee, but she felt compelled to strut her stuff on the grandstand with an edgy performance of Carrie Underwood’s “Cowboy Casanova.”

“I figured if I did something that was big and fast and would get the crowd going, I would stand out,” Sokolik said. “Ballads just don’t really work.”

In the end, Sokolik got the highest marks of the adults from judges Donna Hahn, Judy Bennett and Brian Hansen. Hahn and Bennett are both music teachers, while Hansen is a funeral director. They scored the contestants on vocal ability, continuity of performance, stage presence and overall quality.

Each winner was presented with oversized checks for $1,000. Both Lentz and Nunn will put the money toward new cars. Lentz might need it more than the pre-teen as he’s still driving an old brown mini-van. Sokolik said she’d use the money for a new crib for her baby so she could have just a little left over for herself.

All three will open for Steel Magnolias on Friday, but none are contemplating a career in music anytime soon. Nunn said she was planning on being a doctor or nurse when she gets older.

“A singing nurse!” said one of Nunn’s 100 friends who came out to cheer her on. “That would make them feel better.”

Last updated: 2:15 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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