By KEVIN WARNER
This year’s Williamson County Fair’s Sing Your Heart out Competition will give youngsters a stage to showcase their talents, and allow a beloved former contestant to take the stage again.
The Aug. 8 contest, run by 2006 America’s Got Talent runner-up Taylor Ware, is open to contestants from kindergarten to high school. The singers will compete for a trophy and $500 in each of the three divisions, Elementary (kindergarten – fifth grade), Middle School (sixth-eighth) and high school (ninth – 12th grade). An overall winner will then be selected, and receive an additional $500.
Entry forms and a $25 entry fee must be turned in to the on-site at 4215 Long Ln. fair office in Franklin by Friday at 4 p.m.
Ware, now in college, started the contest eight years ago hoping to give young people an opportunity to showcase their talent.
“I knew growing up from my own struggles that it’s really hard when you’re in grade school or middle school to find a stage that you can get up on and compete, to get some feedback and progress yourself,” she said. “Even around here, back when I started, there wasn’t a lot of opportunity to do that.”
Contestants must compete in a preliminary round at Puckett’s Grocery located at 120 Fourth Ave. in Franklin on Monday. The preliminary competition begins at 2 p.m. Contestants may sing a cappella or use a backing track only. Preliminary songs must be no longer than one and a half minutes.
The finalists will advance to compete on the Nissan Bluegrass Stage located near the midway Aug. 8 at 6 p.m. Finals songs may be up to three minutes long. Music industry professionals will serve as judges for the contest.
A special guest performer will also be joining the contestants at both performances.
Centennial High junior Raymond Cruz, who is battling stage four Ewings-like sarcoma, will return to the Sing Your Heart Out stage at Puckett’s and then again at the fair.
Ware says Cruz, who was diagnosed in January, and his sister have performed at the contest for many years.
“He’s going to be singing, we’re going to be honoring him, just to give a little bit back and they are such a great family… He is an incredible singer and performer,” she said.
In November Cruz came up with the idea for the Centennial High school choir to record a Christmas album to support the program. Earlier this year students at Centennial began raising money for Cruz by selling bracelets with the #RayStrong. A GoFundMe me page was also created.
Last year’s winners will also perform at the fair on Aug. 5. From 10 to 11:30 a.m.
“I was really wanted to start this contest and give kids an outlet to get up on stage and perform,” Ware said. “It warns my heart every single year… I really love this contest because it gives me the ability to allow kids to get up on stage, perform and do what they love.”
The 13th annual Williamson County fair begins Aug. 4.