PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — After a hugely successful first year, the United Way of Aroostook once again is launching an international vocal contest and adding a twist to bring in even more money to support local causes.
In 2005, the United Way of Aroostook first debuted Aroostook Idol, a singing competition and a spinoff of the Fox TV series “American Idol.” The contest quickly attracted entrants and has become one of the organization’s most lucrative fundraisers. Last year, organizers changed the name to “Northern Star” and offered contestants from both The County and western New Brunswick a chance to compete.
Since its inception, the contest has raised more than $200,000 for the UWA. Now, organizers have found a way to make it more interesting.
Claudia Stevens, executive director of the UWA, said on Tuesday that for the first time ever, the contest will have multiple winners.
As has been customary, soloists will be allowed to compete this year. As a new twist, organizers are adding a second category to the competition and inviting singing groups — duos, trios and quartets — from both sides of the international border to compete as well.
“Every year, since we first launched Aroostook Idol in 2005, we have been asked by prospective participants if we would allow them to compete as part of a duo or small group,” Stevens said. “Up until this year, we have had to decline the requests, as group acts haven’t fit with the competition format. We decided to change that in 2011 by adding a component to our regional shows and finale that allow group acts to compete head to head with other group singing acts, with the goal of naming both a Northern Star solo singer and top singing group.”
The top solo singer in the 2011 competition will be named the Northern Star, while the first ever top singing group will be called Northern Star United.
Residents 12 years of age or older and who live in The County or in the New Brunswick counties of Madawaska, Victoria or Carleton will be eligible to compete in the show.
Stevens said that the additional competition will not change the number of regional Northern Star shows or the single finale production, but adjustments are being made to the show formats to accommodate group competitors.
Organizers will hold three shows — one each in southern, central and northern Aroostook County — and the winners from each region will go on to compete in the finale.
Organizers will allow 15 singing acts, solo and group combined, into each of the three regional shows, which again will be held in Houlton, Presque Isle and Fort Kent.
Audience vote will determine which singers move on from the regional shows to the finale production on Feb. 27 at the Caribou Performing Arts Center to determine the Northern Star and Northern Star United champions. A panel of judges will serve as commentators, as they have in years past.
However, organizers are making changes to the judge’s panel as well. Rather than have the same three judges appear at each regional venue, three local celebrity judges from that specific region will sit on each panel. At the end of each production, the audience will determine, by applause, which one of the three judges at their regional venue will “move on” to serve as a judge at the finale.
Stevens said that organizers are now accepting applications from participants.
Solo and group acts are encouraged to apply as soon as possible if they want to take part in one of the three regional shows coming in February.
Since the United Way of Aroostook launched the fundraiser, it has drawn more than 165 competitors to the stage. All of the money raised will benefit agencies funded by the United Way in Aroostook County. Admission to each regional production will be $10.
The first show is planned for contestants from southern Aroostook County and Carleton County, New Brunswick, at 7 p.m. Feb. 5 at the Houlton High School Auditorium. Performances will begin a 7 p.m. Feb. 12 at the Presque Isle Middle School Auditorium for central Aroostook and Victoria County, New Brunswick, residents, and at 7 p.m. Feb. 18 in the Fox Auditorium at the University of Maine at Fort Kent for St. John Valley and Madawaska County, New Brunswick, contestants.
Applications for performers are now available on the United Way of Aroostook website www.unitedwayaroostook.org and at all Aroostook County Key Bank branches.
More information on the Northern Star competition also is available from the United Way of Aroostook by phone at 764-5197.