Young talents from across Carroll County competed on stage at the 4-H and FFA Fair against the backdrop of the bustling livestock building and the smell of fair food.
The Grand Champions of the 2019 Carroll’s Got Talent competition were the duet of Clare Leodler and Mary Shipley who performed “All I Ask,” originally by Adele. Wearing matching outfits, they played piano and tackled the song’s soaring vocals.
The pair were previous competitors in 2018 and returned to win the title. They won the chance to perform as the opener at the fair’s biggest music concert featuring Riley Green and Elly Cooke. Thursday, Aug. 1, Shipley will perform solo for the concert, as Leodler had a family vacation already planned for the date of the performance.
Performers went by their first names during the competition, hosted by the Carroll County Arts Council in partnership with the fair for the first time this year.
Elizabeth, who performed “Wherever We Go,” a capella. The young musician loves Broadway songs and old country musicians. She considers Johnny Cash and Dolly Parton among her favorite artists. The audience chose her by texting in their favorite act.
Abby and Lia, a pair of tap dancers, won in the youth category. Their high-energy choreography, complete with maracas and tutus, was performed to “Ay Caramba.”
A duet was also the winner in the teen category. Evan and Cecilia, both graduates of Manchester Valley High School, who have gone on to study performing arts in college, sang a duet of the endearing ode to friendship “Alone in the Universe” from “Seussical the Musical.”
Judges Judy Morley, executive director of the Carroll County Arts Council; Kristen Rigsby, choreographer; and Kelly Stoneberger, vocal instructor and music director brought their varied expertise to judge the talents.
The judges were looking for the technical quality of the performance, as well as an overall presence and ease while performing, Morley said.
There’s also an intangible quality that some performers just have," she said. “It’s like ‘America’s Got Talent.’ You just know it when you see it.”
Performers ranged from vocal duets, to dance performances and a comedy act.
While the judges deliberated, Carrie Geisler, the previous year’s grand champion performed four songs, two of which she wrote herself. She describes her style as a fusion of country and pop, and she has been a part of Carroll’s Got Talent since 2014.
Performing at venues from churches to schools, the high school junior often donates the proceeds from her performances to nonprofits.
“There’s such talent here,” she said of the competition. She advised the performers to lean into their excitement and their jitters both. “It’s good to have a little nervous energy,” she said before her performance.
In the opening lines of her original song “My Way Home,” she sang, “You’ve got a dream to live out,” an apt blessing for the gathered performers.
Lindsay Sier, of the Carroll Arts Council, was the master of ceremonies for the night. She said that setting up the equipment for sound went smoothly despite setting up for a performance on the Finch Stage of the Buck Miller Arena for the first time.
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Of her partners with the fair, she said “They have been super accommodating and wonderful to work with.”