Platteville native selected Walworth County Fair 'Idol'
ELKHORN It was a boys' night out at the Walworth County Fair on Thursday night.
Not only did the only male of six finalists win the fair's Country Idol contest, but he did so with the help of a song he wrote.
The title: "Boys' Night Out."
Bryan Popp, 29, of Platteville took home the $1,000 prize after performing his own song and Marc Cohn's "Walking' in Memphis." Unlike the other contestants who sang along to CDs, Popp accompanied himself on acoustic guitar.
"I'm going to Disneyland!" the cowboy hat wearing Popp shouted when he was announced the winner.
Popp competed in last year's Country Idol competition, although this is the first time he has won a singing competition, he said. He also has performed in Nashville Star, the country music competition television series on NBC .
First, he will open tonight for country star Craig Morgan on the main stage at the fair.
Three people judged Thursday's competition: songwriter Steve Sperry, music teacher Pam Camp and vocalist Gary McAdams.
They pronounced Popp's performance "awesome" and called his original song "very country."
A line from the upbeat party song: "Drinkin' without you; thinkin' about you."
Another contestant, Lake Geneva's Alicia Grzenia, gave a nod to Popp as she followed him on stage.
"Darn those cowboys with guitars," she said.
Grzenia didn't make the top three Thursday night, but she did get compliments from the judges for her work on Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Sweet Home Alabama."
Sperry complimented her for the challenge of singing a song popularized by a man's voice. And all three judges were impressed with the way Grzenia got the crowd involved.
She divided the packed Park Stage grounds in half and encouraged half to clap along and half to sing along.
A Janesville teen nearly created a Rock/Walworth county fair rivalry.
Sammy Lynn Tracy, 17, wowed the judges with KT Tunstall's "Black Horse and the Cherry Tree."
She took second place and the $300 prize.
"Wow. You really belt it out," McAdams said.
He and Sperry called Tracy's vocal tone "really cool" and "scrumptious."
Elkhorn singer Rebecca Krueger had a big fan base at Thursday night's fair. Her ripped blue jeans matched the lyrics in one of two Christian songs she sang: "Free to be Me" by Francesca Battistelli.
"You have a beautiful smile, especially when you're singing," Camp said.
Michelle Dolensek of Racine was the first singer of the night Thursday. She took third in the competition, winning $100.
Camp complimented Dolensek on her stage presence and for having the smarts to ask to start the music over when the applause made her miss her cue on her second song, "Why Don't You Stay" by Sugarland.
Despite the title "Country Idol," only about half the songs performed were country songs.
A good example was Burlington's Jessica Dahme, who belted out "Chain of Fools" with a sly grin.
Sperry reminded Dahme to move around more on the stage.
"It's not just the voice. It's the whole package," Sperry said.
Dahme didn't miss a beat.
"If it helps, I'm 4-foot-11. My strides are small," she said.