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Local Talent Stage Showcases 30 years of Performances

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In a small town, it is often believed that there are fewer opportunities for the residents than in larger centres, and in some ways, this may be true.
But, in our community, there are a number of passionate, dedicated volunteers that strive to provide some of these unique opportunities, one of which is the local talent stage, present at the NorthWest Round-up and Exhibition (NWRE) each year.
“Mel Edmunds came up with the idea to start the talent stage 30 years ago,” said Swan Valley Credit Union Talent Stage (SVCUTS) Coordinator Lynda Parsons.
Since its humble beginnings as a small stage near the entrance of the grandstands, the SVCUTS soon had a movable trailer for grandstand performances.
“It was great to have a large platform like that, but it had to be retired due to age, so now we hold the talent stage in the Centennial Arena,” said Parsons.
The SVCUTS has always been proud to be sponsored by the Swan Valley Credit Union (SVCU) and GX94, a radio station from Yorkton, as well as the Swan River Valley Agricultural Society (SRVAS).
“The SRVAS has provided us with a venue and other supports during the weekend of our stage, including making the grandstand stage available to us, and including us in their event advertising,” said Parsons.
GX94 Program Director Brad Bazin noted that they have been fortunate to partner with SVCU since the SVCUTS beginnings.
“We continue to support the talent stage because it gives local amateur talent an opportunity to perform at a large venue in front of a friendly crowd,” he said. “It has attracted talent from a very large area and attracted people that enjoy music to the NWRE.
“For many (competitors), it is a ‘first experience’ performing at a venue of this type.”
Parsons echoed the sentiment, noting that the event also promotes our community and elevates the Valley as a potential musical hub.
In the 30 years of the SVCUTS, there have been many performers, each bringing their own unique gifts to the stage.
“We are very proud of the event and the talent we see here each year,” said Parsons.
“The level of talent has grown over the years, it’s been tremendous. Some of it comes from a change in the participants, but the dynamic has changed and this has upped the level of competition.”
Some notable winners from the past include Ryan Keown, Tenille Arts, and Kendra Kay (Kvemshagen), who have all gone on to pursue their musical careers and have made a name for themselves.
Others include local talent, and those from outside the Valley and the province.
“As a broadcaster, we believe strongly in Canadian talent development and try to partner with events that do the same,” said Bazin. “Giving amateur talent an opportunity to perform, be judged and possibly advance and win prizes, helps to further any career aspirations they may have.
“It also allows them to meet other like-minded people that enjoy singing and performing and to share knowledge and ability.”
In preparation for each year’s competition, information is sent out and advertisments are created. With only 30 slots available, performers jump at the opportunity to join in.
“We bring in local judges who have a background in musical talent,” said Parsons.
“We also sometimes bring in celebrity guest judges, like this year, featuring Kendra Kay.”
Although the format has been modified slightly over the years, the main facets have remained the same. Performers are evaluated on a point system, and the final six compete in Sunday’s finale.
“Each artist, from ages 10 and up, performs two songs, but only one in the finale, so there’s only one shot to get it right,” said Parsons.
She also noted that due to the continued popularity of the event, the roster is nearly full for this year, and looks to have some great talent.
“We don’t have any requirements in place that if you’ve won in the past you aren’t able to compete again, so we’re seeing some past winners come back again,” Parsons said. “We’re also seeing a second generation compete, as Ryder Keown (father Ryan Keown) will be on stage.”
Parsons noted that the community support has always been phenomenal, both in terms of prizes for the competitors, but also the audience that attends each performance.
“This has become a staple event of the NWRE, and with the partnerships we have built with the SVCU and GX94, I see the event continuing for many years to come,” concluded Parsons.
“Although we have tweaked the format to improve competition and streamline the event, the heart of the stage is and will continue to be one of the best amateur country music talent shows on the prairies.”

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Jessica Bergen
REPORTER
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