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Altamont Fair Special Section Archives The Altamont Enterprise, August 13, 2009

Altamont sounds like Nashville as eight compete for Country Idol title

By Maggie Gordon

ALTAMONT — The sound of country music drowned out the screams from nearby rides at the Altamont Fair on Tuesday evening as eight local women competed for the title of Country Idol.

 An audience of several dozen friends, families, and other country music enthusiasts gathered at the grandstand for the WGNA event. The competition began with more than 30 contestants, which the station whittled down to the final eight, according to Selena Dutcher of WGNA.

Three judges from the New York Army National Guard sat at stage right, scoring the singers. After each contestant had a chance to belt out her tune, the judges picked the top five singers to perform their songs again, and awarded prizes to their favorite three vocalists.

“It’s not going to operate like American Idol,” said Lou Roberts, of WGNA’s Cryin’, Lovin’ or Leavin’ who emceed the event.

The judges offered up only scores instead of commentary as they do on the hit television show. “We’re not exactly music experts,” said Sgt. Michael Greene. Then he pointed at the other two judges and joked, “But Specialist Marbot will be Paula, Staff Sgt. Hicks will be Randy, and I’ll be the mean guy.”

The judges heard a range of songs from Sugarland to Nat King Cole in the first round before deciding who would advance to the final five. As they deliberated, dusk set in and the grandstand morphed into an amphitheater in Nashville.

The singers came back out, one-by-one, and sang their songs once more, while the audience toe-tapped against the metal bleachers and clapped along to the beat. “My whole softball team is here,” said 19-year-old Brittany Kruzinski, who sang Sugarland’s “Down in Mississippi.”

“It’s actually really cute,” said Victoria Taylor, another contestant who sang “I Run To You” by Lady Antebellum.

Kruzinski’s supporters made themselves known during her performance by hollering and standing up in the stands as she sang with soul. But again, unlike American Idol, audience votes did not count in the decision.

In the end, 20-year-old Rachael Howarth won the competition, as well as the grand prize of $200 and a pair of tickets to see Keith Urban and Sugarland at the Times Union Center in October, for her rendition of “There You’ll Be” by Faith Hill.

“I’m so happy. I’m just ecstatic right now,” she said moments after the final decision was announced. “I just got back into singing, and this is the first big event I’ve done in about two years.”

Howarth, who is about to begin her junior year at the University at Albany, majoring in business administration, grew up singing in school plays, and performing the national anthem at special events, but recently fell out of the pattern during her first two years at college.

“I’m really focused on school right now,” she said. “But this is still my dream.”

The prize money will go toward guitar lessons for the new guitar she recently received as a birthday present. “I’m hoping that when school’s over with, I might move down to Nashville and try to pursue this,” she said.

The first runner up, Maggie McGuire of Ravena, received $100 and a pair of tickets to Toby Keith and Trace Adkins’ Toughest Tour for her performance of Nat King Cole’s “Orange Colored Sky.” Victoria Taylor earned third place, and $50 as well as a pair of tickets to see Jamey Johnson at Northern Lights. “It’s a great experience,” she said. “I love this kind of stuff.”

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