FORT KENT, Maine — “This is the best Fort Kent [area] talent we’ve seen yet,” said Northern Star judge Scott Voisine as he waited Friday for the final votes to be counted in the annual regional benefit competition.
In the wings of the stage at the University of Maine’s Fox Auditorium, 15 solo singers and members of the four group acts also waited to hear whose name would be called out to advance to the finale to be held this weekend in Caribou.
“We’ve been to Houlton and Presque Isle so far, but we always look forward to the Fort Kent show. You guys have all the energy,” co-host Jason Parent told the sold-out crowd earlier in the evening.
Selected to advance and represent northern Aroostook County and Madawaska County, New Brunswick, were soloists Indya Ouellette of Madawaska, Emily Marin of Fort Kent and Megan Ouellette of Clair, New Brunswick.
Advancing as the winning vocal group were The Triplets — Ariane Richard of Clair, New Brunswick, and her singing partners, twin sisters Naomi and Nokomi Oakes Ouellet of Lac Baker, New Brunswick.
The three soloists and group now will compete against their counterparts who were chosen during earlier events in central and southern Aroostook in the finale beginning at 2 p.m. Sunday, March 25, at the Caribou Performing Arts Center.
The singing competition has served as a key fundraising event for the United Way of Aroostook since its inception in 2005 and has grown in popularity over the last seven years.
On Friday, March 16, in Fort Kent, Parent and his co-host, Claudia Stevens, executive director of United Way of Aroostook, took turns introducing the hopeful singers and trading banter with the panel of judges, which included Voisine as well as Pam Cyr and Samantha Boutot, both former winners of the competition.
The audience voted for the top two soloists and group act, while the judges picked a third soloist to participate in the finale next weekend.
Indya Ouellette, 15, wowed the crowd and judges with her rendition of Loretta Lynn’s “You Ain’t Woman Enough,” while 12-year-old Marin performed an acoustic version of Taylor Swift’s “Breathe” alongside guitarist Dave Rossignol that had the crowd cheering.
The judges picked Megan Ouellette to advance for her rendition of “Many the Miles” by pop artist Sara Bareilles.
The Triplets, chosen for a second year in a row to represent the area, showed off their talents once again with what judges called a “perfect” performance of “Love You Like a Love Song” by Selena Gomez.
While the crowd was voting and waiting for the results, judges Cyr and Boutot gave performances of their own, which were highlighted by Boutot holding her 5-month-old daughter Shanelle onstage as she sang an emotionally charged version of “My Daughter’s Eyes” by Martina McBride.
Admission to the finale on Sunday in Caribou is $10, with tickets available at any branch of KeyBank or at the United Way office in Presque Isle. Proceeds go directly to the United Way of Aroostook’s annual campaign which helps 21 agencies and programs support those in need throughout The County.
Among the performers slated to sing who represent Southern Aroostook and Carlton County, New Brunswick, will be Nathen Cyr of Patten, Bailey McNally of Sherman and Brandon Clark of Houlton. The vocal group from that area is Brittani Suitter and Cassidy Nason of Monticello.
Representing central Aroostook and Victoria County, New Brunswick, will be Lance Albair of Woodland, Todd Corey of Presque Isle and Josh Doughty of Presque Isle. Dan Rooney and Josh Doughty, both of Presque Isle, will perform a duet.
For information, call the United Way of Aroostook at 764-5197 or visit www.unitedwayaroostook.org.