Artists set sights on Big Valley


Competitors vie for chance to sing on jamboree's main stage

Big Valley Jamboree is that annual fest where cowboys and country stars turn into brothers at arms tappin’ their toes and clappin’ their hands.

Pop a cap, pour the suds and sit back and listen to some of the best live country music ever produced at this Camrose masterpiece running July 31 to Aug. 3.

While some urban cowboys and cowgirls have tipped their Stetsons towards the big acts – Chemical Cowboys, Hunter Hays, Zac Brown Band and Miranda Lambert, there’s also a range of fresh faces eager to make their mark.

About 50 provincial acts will be competing as semi-finalists on the ATB Financial Homegrown Stage from Thursday to Saturday. Twelve are local familiar artists.

The St. Albert voices are Dante Fecteaus, Deanna Missins, Hailey Benedict, Julia Nicholson, Taylor Hambly, Whitney Boras and Yasmeen Najmeddine.

Shay Esposito and sisters Keirstyn and Tristyn Chartrand from Sturgeon County, along with Morinville siblings Mariya and Sofiya Chvojka, are also part of the lineup.

During the three-day singing competition, numbers will be whittled down to 12 finalists. The winner performs on the coveted main stage on Sunday just prior to Kip Moore’s performance.

“For these kids the prestige of performing on the main stage is the big thing. They have a huge audience of thousands,” said Irma MacPherson, producer of the ATB Financial stage.

Every year MacPherson and her team audition young talent from across the province. Prior to Big Valley, she hosts workshops designed to polish their performances and hopefully take them to the next level. And she is full of encouragement for each one.

“I see their progress. They come to me and I see them grow into their A-game. I’ve been blown away by how hard they work. They took our advice – and that’s hard for some kids – and they worked so hard. I’m very proud of what the kids have done.”

Up until two years ago, Panhandle Productions (Big Valley producers) simply hosted a youth showcase.

Producer Larry Werner has always been a strong advocate of supporting youth talent. In trying to creatively manage the budget, the showcase was changed to a competition with hopes of attracting fresh sponsorship.

Last year Big Valley received rave reviews for the shift. Even before the 2013 competition was over, ATB Financial had signed up as a sponsor, said MacPherson.

Unlike the strictly country adult stages, the ATB youth stage is much more eclectic, offering a mix, from musical theatre to original roots ballads to pop to country.

In addition to performing on the main stage, the winner receives a $3,500 full production sound recording from Hands Up Music, a trophy and $100 sponsored by ATB Financial and an Alberta Country Music Association membership.

ATB has also offered to open a $25 account for all finalists.

“It’s the best entertainment on the grounds. It’s so endearing to sit and watch the budding talent we have in our backyard. You can see them fulfill their dream, even at this young age.”

The ATB Financial Homegrown Stage hosts about 50 semi-finalists vying to open on the Sunday main stage.
They are:
Thursday, July 31 at 3 p.m.
• Mariya Chvojka, 11
• Sofiya Chvojka, 8
• Whitney Boras, 18
Friday, Aug. 1 at 12 noon
• Dante Fecteaus, 8
• Julia Nicholson, 16
• Yasmeen Najmeddine, 15
Friday, Aug. 1 at 3 p.m.
• Hailey Benedict, 12
• Shay Esposito, 16
Saturday, Aug. 2 at 12 noon
• Deanna Missins, 14
• Keirstyn Chartrand, 9
• Taylor Hambly, 14
• Tristyn Chartrand, 9


About Author

Anna Borowiecki

Anna Borowiecki joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2000. She reports on local people and events in the arts, entertainment and food industry. She also writes general news and features.