Hampton's Idol -- Contest Draws 500

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By Patrick Cronin

Hampton Union, Tuesday, August 29, 2006

[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online]

Despite the rain, a crowd of people watch the Hampton Beach Idol contestants perform on Sunday night.
[Photo by Jackie Ricciardi]

HAMPTON -- Aimeè Robidoux got some "respect" after being named this year's Hampton Beach Idol, but the Pennsylvania native said she isn't quitting her day job.

"I like to sing for fun," Robidoux said. "I feel like, if you're not having fun, there is no point in doing it. But I have a job with benefits, so this is just is going to be my fun thing to do."

Her performance of the song made famous by the "Queen of Soul," Aretha Franklin, not only resulted in a standing ovation, but propelled her ahead of nine other contestants in the senior division who made it to the finals Sunday night at the Seashell Stage.

April Holmes of Worcester, Mass., came in second place, while Ellen Gallo of Bradford, Mass., took home third.

"After they named second and third, I thought I was done," Robidoux said. "I didn't think I was going to get anything. It was tough tonight."

And while the seniors had top billing, it was the juniors who stole the show.

Julie Fisher, of Methuen, Mass., took home the title of Hampton Beach Idol in the junior division. Fisher, who came in second place in last year's competition, said she wants to be a professional singer.

"My idol is Celine Dion," Fisher said. "I think she is amazing."

In the semifinals, she sang "Last Dance" by Donna Summer, and on Sunday night, she sang "Unchained Melody" by The Righteous Brothers.

Bevin Vigneau of Burlington, Mass., came in second place, while Kristen McCusker of Westford, Mass., took home third.

Robidoux, whose parents told her about the competition sponsored by the Hampton Village District, said she was impressed by one particular junior.

Stephen Pare of Seabrook was a crowd favorite after singing "Bohemian Rhapsody" by Queen on Friday night and "Crazy Train" by Ozzy Osbourne at the finals.

"I'm a little bit disappointed that Crazy Train' didn't place," Robidoux said. "I mean, come on ... that was cool."

The other local junior, Chloe Pasi, a senior at Exeter High School, also made it to the finals.

The song she performed, "Stormy Weather," by Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler, was fitting for the rainy night and the crowd full of umbrellas.

"I think I was even more impressed this year with the level of competition," said event organizer and host Jack Knox. "I really felt from the start that the juniors would be really competitive. I thought the seniors rose to the occasion and elevated all of their performances, as well. I'm just glad I wasn't a judge."

Beth Allison and her daughter, Caitlyn Allison, both made it to the finals in their respective divisions. The mother-and-daughter duo sang to honor their husband and father, who is being deployed to Iraq.

Elizabeth Provost drove all the way to Hampton Beach from Canada to perform in the competition.

"My family has been coming here since my mom was a little girl," Provost said. "I went on the Web site and looked at what was happening this weekend, and it just so happened the competition was going on. So I thought I would just enter it for fun."

And while she didn't take home any prizes, she was happy to get past the semifinals on Saturday.

Provost brought down the house on Saturday with her rendition of "All That Jazz," but her choice on Sunday night of "Man, I Feel Like a Woman" didn't go over well with the judges.

Knox said all the contestants were judged on the following four criteria: quality of voice, stage presence, audience response and overall entertainment value. Song selection is also a big component.

"I think Julie Fisher has a beautiful voice, but I really didn't think, from the get-go in my own opinion, that she was the best voice I heard during the auditions," Knox said. "But she was the best tonight. She really was. She went on stage and absolutely nailed it. That is what it's all about."

More than 70 performers entered the competition. Judges narrowed it down to 20 in each of the two categories to perform at Friday's and Saturday's semifinals. The semifinalists were asked back to perform in the finals on Sunday night.

Contestants competed for cash prizes up to $500, bragging rights and the untold promise of future fame.

Hampton Precinct Commissioner John Kane said, while the finals were not as heavily attended as the semifinals due to the weather, the competition will be back next year.

"The level of talent was first-rate," Kane said. "They are amateurs, but they could be professionals."

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