Vocalists from both sides of the border will begin their quest for the title of Northern Star this weekend as the eighth annual singing competition kicks off Friday night in the St. John Valley.
For the first time, all three regional contests, in Fort Kent, Presque Isle and Houlton, are set for the same weekend — March 1-3.
“I’m trying to prepare myself for the weekend and conserve a little energy,” said Claudia Stevens, executive director of the United Way of Aroostook, who will co-host all the shows with Jason Parent. “It’s ambitious, but I think in the long run it’s going to be easier than stretching it out and spending four weekends doing this as opposed to two. And I think it builds the hype around the excitement of it. I think it was a smart move for us.”
The first competition is set to start at 7 p.m. Friday, March 1, in the Fox Auditorium at the University of Maine at Fort Kent for singers from the St. John Valley and Madawaska County, New Brunswick.
Central Aroostook and Victoria County, N.B., residents will compete beginning at 7 p.m. Saturday, March 2, at the Presque Isle Middle School Auditorium.
The final regional show will start at 2 p.m. Sunday, March 3, at the Houlton High School Auditorium where contestants from southern Aroostook and Carleton County, N.B., will perform.
Stevens said applications have been steadily coming in.
“The signup has been very good,” she said. “We have probably 10-12 acts for Fort Kent, the same in Houlton, and we’re going to have a full show in Presque Isle. I suspect we will get more contestants as the week goes on. A lot of people wait until the last minute.”
Besides the contestants, last year’s Northern Star winner, Megan Ouellette of Clair, N.B., will perform at each of the three regional shows, as well as at the finale on Sunday, March 17 at the Caribou Performing Arts Center.
Audiences at each of the regional productions will determine two top solo winners, and judges will pick a third. All nine solo singers, as well as the top groups, will then compete on March 17 to determine the Northern Star winner. The top singing group will be called Northern Stars United.
Organizers will continue with changes they made to the judges’ panel two years ago when they stopped having the same three judges appear at each regional venue. Instead, there will be three local celebrity judges for each region. At the end of each event, the audience will determine, by applause, which one of the three judges will serve as a judge at the finale.
In Houlton, the judges will be Tammy Goetsch, Nancy Ketch and Annie Charles, who won the singing competition in 2007. Presque Isle judges will be Sherry Sullivan, Jim Derosier and Jay Nelson, while critiquing the Valley contestants will be Samantha Boutot, who won in 2006; 2009 winner Pam Cyr; and Michelle Beaulieu.
Admission to each regional production will be $10. Tickets are available at all Key Bank branches, the United Way office and at the door. All proceeds from funds raised at the door will go directly to the United Way of Aroostook’s annual campaign. For more information, contact the United Way at 764-5197.