Calling all stars for the Putnam County Fair

Monday, June 10, 2013

An effort to boost the star power at the 2013 Putnam County Fair will begin and end with a search for talented, young stars right here in the community.

With the announcement of a number of exciting concerts at this year's fair, none should be more exciting to young singers than the inaugural Putnam County Star event, set to run each evening from July 20-24.

With nightly shows on the revamped free stage as well as performances at the queen contest before the fair, Putnam County Star is an "American Idol" or "The Voice" style competition for vocalists ages 13-30.

"We're trying to make the Putnam County Fair where you can take your whole family and not only be entertained by the carnival but by the music ... and see things you haven't seen before" organizer Rick Johnston said. "We haven't offered anything like this before."

The Putnam County Star competition will begin a month in advance of the fair, with auditions on June 22 and 23. At this initial event, singers will give a 90-second a cappella audition to a group of judges.

Based on these auditions, organizers will perform call-backs of the top 50 for another round on June 29.

Twelve finalists will be chosen for the fair week Putnam County Star competition.

Anyone wishing to sign up may visit or email Singers may also sign up on the day of auditions.

The finalists chosen, the competition will continue with several nights of public competition at fair events.

The first performance for the finalists will be at the Saturday, July 13 Putnam County Fair Queen contest.

Although not an officially judged part of the competition, it will give a large audience the opportunity to hear all of the finalists at one venue, as each of the 12 will perform a song that evening.

The singers will continue to get public exposure on the revamped free stage at the Putnam County Fair on July 20-23, when they will all have the chance to perform for the public during breaks in the sets of each evening's headlining band.

The big event, however, will be the finals at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, July 24. The singers will perform before a panel of judges and the public (who will also have a part in the voting process) for the chance to be the first Putnam County Star.

Aside from featuring $500 in cash and prizes, the final night will feature Indianapolis radio legend J.D. Cannon as emcee. The DJ spent more than 30 years at WFMS before moving on to Hank FM.

A 2002 inductee into the Country Music On-Air Personality Hall of Fame, Cannon has also won two Country Music Association Awards and one Academy of Country Music Award.

But the real star of the evening will be the talented young person who is named the first-ever Putnam County Star at the end of the evening.

"It's another avenue for the younger generation to express themselves musically," Johnston said, noting the decreased interest in and funding for school music programs.

The Putnam County Star finale will come at the end of six nights of quality entertainment at the Putnam County Fair.

The big event of the week will be Bedford native and rising country star Clayton Anderson at 9 p.m. on Friday, July 19. Tickets for the event are $8 in advance or $10 the day of the show. Gates open at 6 p.m.

"I'm really excited we got him," Johnston said of the young performer who is becoming well know in the Midwest. "That was kind of a coupe that we got him."

The plan is for the Anderson show to generate the kind of Friday night interest in being at the fairgrounds that was present years ago when the place to be immediately after the Putnam County Fair Parade was north of town, at the fairgrounds.

Tickets are currently on sale at Cross Cuts, the Putnam County Extension Office and York Pontiac.

On the heels of Anderson's performance will be four nights of concerts on the fair free stage during the week from The Cornfield Mafia, Phillip Steven & the Open Road, Big Daddy Caddy and Special Purpose.

The free stage bands have all opened for national touring acts.

"I don't think you'll go any place in the state and find the quality we have for the entertainment dollar," Johnston said.

All of these shows follow the return of Levi Riggs to the fairgrounds. Following a show at last year's fair, Riggs will give a free concert during the July 7 Putnam County Fair kickoff event.

As much fun as quality entertainment will provide to fair goers, the Fair Board is doing it all with thoughts of how to improve the fair experience for the young people in 4-H.

"I think it's our responsibility as a community to give back to these kids who don't have the opportunities that others do," Johnston said.

With the high costs sometimes associated with livestock projects, one idea is to use the money to buy animals for less fortunate kids to show.

"The idea is to create a revenue so we can have more scramble animals," Johnston said. "And credit goes to the artists this year because they're basically doing it for nothing."

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