Thursday, June 19, 2008

Senior Star Regional Competition a Great Success!

Last evening (June 18th) I was in downtown Niagara Falls, Ontario, for the second annual Senior Star regional competition, held at Club 4555 on Queen Street. In May, I was asked to MC the event, and I made my first visit to Club 4555 in late May for a planning session for the event. It is a lovely space; pretty funky in a quirky sort of way, but an indication of what is slowly but surely happening with dear ol' downtown Niagara Falls.

The Senior Star competition is a national appreciation of seniors by Chartwell Seniors Housing Reit, operators of a number of seniors residences across the country, including Willoughby Manor in Niagara Falls. They feel, basically, it was time to give some of our talented seniors the star treatment and give them their own Canadian Idol-like venue in which to perform. Last year, the national finals were held at the swank Imperial Room at the Royal York Hotel in Toronto. This year the regional competitions will again send their top winners to the national final and we'll crown another Senior Star for 2008.

Getting back to last evening, we had five contestants originally, with a sixth joining the competition just before we began. There was a heavy dose of old-time country performances last evening, and in fact the winner, Richard (Dick) van Trigt, is a fan of the Grand Ol' Opry from away back. Dick performed a medley of Eddy Arnold's "Make The World Go Away" and Hank Snow's "I Don't Hurt Anymore". He was in fine form and easily took the regional crown for the second straight year. He comes by his country roots naturally, as he has taken part in the Oakville-area Polka Fest, performed at Toronto's Roy Thomson Hall during Senior's Week, and in fact he is the founder of Opry Niagara Classic Country Music Association, which meets every Wednesday evening from 7 to 11 pm at their meeting place on Garner Road in Niagara Falls. Last evening, he left Club 4555 for the Opry gig with one of the other country performers last evening, Gabe LaPointe.

The judges last evening were the Mayor of Niagara Falls, Ted Salci, musician Martin Wall and local choir performer Carol Martin. While the three judges of American Idol have nothing to fear from this trio, they spoke from the heart and genuinely seemed to enjoy all the performers last evening. For the record, the others who performed last evening were Winston Harper, Marie Sharpe, George Bruklis and Liam (Bill) Black. Everyone came prepared and ready to go, and I felt any of them could have walked off with the top prize if it were not for Dick's obvious experience on stage and on television, where he hosted a show in New Brunswick for three years some time ago. The one other notable "performer" last evening was the Town Crier for the City of Niagara Falls, Derek Tidd, who kicked the proceedings off with a "cry" of epic proportions. I say notable performer because, besides being an official town crier, he also happens to be 84 years old, and has a set of pipes on him the envy of many, including myself!

All in all, it was a great evening of music and fun, comraderie and showing what our talented seniors can do. All the best to Dick in the finals, and my thanks to Chartwell Reit for the chance to be a part of it at Club 4555 last evening.

January 19th, 2008.

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