One singer crooned like Sinatra. One twanged in true Conway Twitty style and another gave a credible gravel-voiced impression of Louis Armstrong. And, of course, an Elvis entered the Cow Palace at the Maryland State Fairgrounds in Timonium with a guitar and had most of the audience swaying in the seats Thursday before he left the building.
The show was called "Baltimore County Seniors Got Talent," and 11 performers proved it in a contest loosely based on the similarly named TV reality show. A classical guitarist, an essayist and a songwriter also lent their talents to the program at the county's annual Senior and Baby Boomer Expo.
The three-judge panel congratulated belly dancer Angie Rounis for the liveliest performance. Trailing a veil and pumping castanets, she undulated with an energy and grace that belied her 85 years.
"It's therapy for me," she said. "As soon as I put on that music, it motivates me to do snakes, camels and shimmies. This is not hoochie-coochie. It's dramatic and beautiful."
Judge Jackie Marhefka, a ballroom dance instructor, told Rounis she might sign up for lessons.
"You are my new hero," Marhefka said.
If applause and whistles were criteria, the entertainers all would have scored the maximum five points in the audience excitement category. Second place and tickets to a dinner theater went to Chuck Fisher, 62, who adopted the Twitty look, topping his thick white hair with a black Stetson. He belted out "It's Only Make Believe" and said he enjoys performing so much that he might put together a traveling show.
"I just love to sing and will entertain at whatever place will have me," said Fisher, who works part time as a fishing guide. "It's great to entertain seniors with the classics we all grew up on. Those songs trigger a lot of good memories."
The last of the 10 acts, a husband-and-wife duo, had the audience laughing at one song and misty-eyed with a patriotic medley. Tom Kowalski, 76, and Paula Rehr, 65, took first place. They were unsure where they would go with their $500 travel gift certificate, but they plan to keep on singing. They began their musical careers by harmonizing barbershop-style and have branched out to entertaining on cruises, at senior centers and in community theater.
After watching the other performers, Rehr said, "I love the variety and depth of talent here. Just to be able to get up there and perform at our age is a miracle."
Emcee Jill Hall, chief of senior centers and community services for the county's Department of Aging, said, "It doesn't matter the age. These performers highlight the ability to wow an audience. These seniors just get out there and entertain."