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Letting Prairie Talent Soar

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It is often believed that small towns face the difficulties of having fewer opportunities for the residents than in larger city areas, and in some ways, this may be true. However, the Swan Valley Credit Union Talent Stage (SVCUTS) at the NorthWest Round-up and Exhibition (NWRE) has had an instrumental part in establishing careers in performing arts for more than 30 years.
“Not only has the level of talent grown, but we have seen lots of new talent as well,” said SVCUTS Coordinator Lynda Parsons. “This has really upped the bar on our competition, bringing out the best in our local competitors and attracting other competitors from all over Canada.
“We have a great variety of talent on our stage. Some contestants are just stepping on to the stage for the first time, some compete with exceptional singing voices or instrument based talent and we also have many competitors that join us for the simple joy of being able to perform for family and friends.”
Success of past SVCUTS winners has also brought additional recognition to the event with such talents as Kendra Kay, who recently opened at Dauphin Countryfest, and Tenille Arts who is now performing in Nashville and on the world stage.
“When I was first going through the competition I was still trying to figure out who I was as an artist and what that identity was,” said Arts, who won the competition in 2009 when she was in her early adolescence. “I have so many great memories from that competition. I loved meeting the new artists each year and I remember breaking a guitar string during the finals and having to borrow someone else’s guitar. We were competitive but everyone still wanted to help each other out.”
Arts’ career in the country music industry began to take off after her win at the SVCUTS.
“Being a part of the competition introduced me to a lot of artists and people in the Saskatchewan country music industry that I’m still in contact with today,” she said. “I definitely would advise someone looking to get in the industry to attend these types of competitions. A lot of these contests allow you to perform on bigger stages and you can also learn and grow as an artist by listening and applying any critiques the judges have. It’s a great stepping stone because it gets your name out there and you get to perform for a lot of people. Every new fan is a win, and I think this competition encourages growth in new artists.”
Arts made her debut to the SVCUTS in its humble days when the event was held outside on the grounds on a flat deck trailer. And this year, the Talent Stage is going back to its roots.
Due to the Swan River Centennial Arena being unable to hold indoor events, the stage will return to the grounds where the talents of those competitors will be heard throughout the NWRE.
“The Town of Swan River and the Swan River Valley Agricultural Society have been very supportive of setting us up in a new location and supplying us with a few necessities,” said Parsons, noting that she has no concerns about the change of atmosphere. “We will now be located on the South side of the arena between it and the curling rink.”
With a tent set up to cover from the elements and Flaman Rentals supplying a flat deck trailer that will work as the stage, the outdoor event will keep audiences cool while performers 10 years of age and older take to entertain in each round of the competition.
“GX94 and The Fox have supported our event for many years by supplying the sound and announcers to take us through the preliminaries to the grand finale. In addition, we also get the opportunity to showcase GX94’s Star Search winner as our guest artist and opening act for our preliminaries and grand finale show.”
With so many in support of SVCUTS over the years, it’s no wonder the volunteers continue to put time in to make sure the events runs smoothly and is enjoyed by everyone in attendance.
“Our community fills the audience every year to see what talent we have to offer,” said Parsons. “I cannot say enough about how our community comes out to support our event.”
While the SVCUTS has become a staple to local rodeo attendees, it has also been bringing people into our community to come and support the competitors who travel in.
“It’s a visit that may not happen otherwise,” said Parsons. “Once in our community the feedback given is always positive with many contestants commenting that they would like to return and enjoy the many amenities and recreational opportunities that we offer in the Valley.”
So, whether you’re attending the NWRE for the grandstands, the midway or the food, make sure to keep an ear free to capture the talent that will carry through as competitors take the stage.
“We have amazing local talent performing and we offer something for all ages,” said Parsons.
You’ll show up to see all the talent and you may just leave with your new favourite artist.
“I’m very thankful for the ongoing support,” said Arts. “It’s really great to know that they still have my back.”

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Jakki Lumax
REPORTER
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