PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — The hugely successful Northern Star singing competition — the United Way of Aroostook benefit fundraiser traditionally held in February — will move to March this year.
“We wanted to try something new this year in terms of the dates for our shows,” said Claudia Stevens, executive director of the United Way of Aroostook. “We have been very successful with our regional competitions being held in February in the past, but always end up with singers who cannot participate because of the busy nature of the month. Between high school sports and other community activities, some very talented performers cannot join in. This — coupled with the winter weather challenges we sometimes face in February — were the reasons for the move to March.”
So for the first time in the seven years since the project was introduced, regional contests will be held in March.
The first show is planned for contestants from southern Aroostook County and Carleton County, New Brunswick, beginning at 7 p.m. EST Friday, March 2, at the Houlton High School Auditorium; 7 p.m. EST Friday, March 9, at the Presque Isle Middle School Auditorium for central Aroostook and Victoria County, New Brunswick, residents; and 7 p.m. EST Friday, March 16, in the Fox Auditorium at the University of Maine at Fort Kent for St. John Valley and Madawaska County, New Brunswick, contestants.
Organizers are targeting 16 as the number of singing acts — solo and group combined — for each of the three regional shows in Houlton, Presque Isle and Fort Kent. Audiences at the consecutive weekly productions in March will determine top winners in each category — solo and group singers — from their region, who then will participate along with the top contestants from the other two areas in a finale production March 25 at the Caribou Performing Arts Center to determine the Northern Star and Northern Stars United champions.
Applications for the Northern Star competition are available through the United Way of Aroostook office, online at www.unitedwayaroostook.org and at any northern Maine branch of KeyBank. Residents age 12 and above who live in the three counties in the Canadian province that borders Aroostook County — Madawaska, Victoria and Carleton — are eligible to compete alongside solo singers from northern Maine. For a second year, organizers are inviting singing groups — duos, trios and quartets — from both sides of the international border to compete, as well. Singers can present selections from any genre, and in English, French or any combination of languages.
“Every year, since we first launched Northern Star [formerly 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,” said Stevens. “Last year for the first time we added a component to our regional shows and finale that allowed group acts to compete head-to-head with other group singing acts. It was very well received and added a great deal to our shows, so we decided to continue that part of the competition this year.”
Stevens, who has been working with a committee of volunteers to plan for the seventh season of the singing competition that has raised nearly $250,000 for the United Way of Aroostook since its inception, said the top solo singer in the 2012 competition will be named the Northern Star, while the singing group will be called Northern Stars United. Stevens coined the latter title to reflect both the “united” nature of the voices and singers in the groups that will compete, and for the obvious connection with the name of the organization that originated and has successfully managed the singing contest for seven years.
As in years past, audiences will vote to determine which singers move on to the finale. A panel of judges again will serve as commentators. Organizers will continue with changes they made to the judges panel last year when they went away from having the same three judges appear at each regional venue. Instead, three local celebrity judges from that specific region will sit on each panel. At the end of each regional production, the audience will determine, by applause, which of the three judges will “move on” to serve as a judge at the finale.
Admission to each regional production will be $10. All proceeds from funds raised at the door will go directly to the United Way of Aroostook’s annual campaign.
For more information, call the United Way of Aroostook at 764-5197.