I had the honor of judging the Youth Talent Contest at the annual Jefferson County Fair on Monday night. Normally I have been the emcee of the show, and this year I wanted to change the roles - a change which was ultimately a mistake. Sort of.
I made several critical errors on Monday evening, which began when I left behind the digital camera at home, thus depriving readers here of the visuals of the fairgrounds and the extremely talented performers. So no tempting pictures of roasted corn-on-the-cob, towering stacks of funnel cakes, airbrushed t-shirts of thonged vixens astride motorcycles or reclining on the hoods of muscle cars, and no images of the varieties of foods-on-sticks. My bad. (And just a side note - food on a stick is a marvel of technology and a boon to stickmakers worldwide.)
And while I thought the heat on Monday evening was brutal, the heat in the competition was just as intense. I've emceed the show for many years, and what happens when I get to sit in a judge's seat? The performances were varied, unique and strong and judging among them nearly impossible.
My fellow judges and myself decided who would be Randy, who Paula, who Simon, although I kinda wanted to be a David Hasselhoff a la "America's Got Talent." Fortunately, we simply scored the contestants and did not have to speak up. Yet, by contest's end, each judge spoke about how good all the performers were -- not to just encourage those who did not win, but to emphasize how narrow a margin existed between victory and loss.
For example, one 14 year old boy played an instrumental classical guitar solo, another girl sang Jim Croce's "New York's Not My Home," and then there was the clogging duo. Now stop laughing. I know I just said clogging and I'm sure your image of such is about the same as mine. However these performers appeared wearing vivid sparkly red tops and pleather pants and the music was a pure rave remix of hip-hop and rock. The "clogging" including plain old fashioned tap-dancing and Britney Spears/Janet Jackson dance choreography. (And perhaps is was the heat, but for a minute or two I did flash onto that memory of the dance team from the movie "Donnie Darko", which creeped me out a little bit.)
In years past, there would often be several singers all singing the same momentary country music chart-topper or squads of clogging teams using the exact same bluegrass jam.
Not this year. Nope, not the year I get to be a judge. Powerful singers and musicians, making selections from Billy Joel to Martina McBride to Nelly. Boy, was I glad I didn't wear my overalls and I wore my shoes (that's a county fair joke - just relax).
Back in 1988 was the last time I judged something at the Jeff Co Fair. It was a 'Comedy Contest' and it was not pretty. It took place on a hilly spot on the fairgrounds. And the best joke I heard was about some farmer's confusion between a pig and his wife. Not pretty.
For some years now, the Youth Talent Show has had it's own covered pavilion and lights and bleachers for the crowd.
I'd show you a picture, but ... I can give you a link to the official web site for the fair, which goes thru Friday and you can enjoy this shot of a super-amped lawn tractor below.
And here is a video for the tractor pull competition.
But the real battle was among some truly talented teens.