ADAM JACKSON/Ponoka News
From more than 50 applicants, to 10, then down to one, the 2011 Ponoka Stampede Talent Show winner has been crowned.
Seventeen-year-old Mariya Soetaert of Stavely sang her heart out at the Stampede grounds on June 29 and took home $1,000 and a Ponoka Stampede leather jacket.
“I’m so excited,” said Soetaert. “I’m so glad that I had this opportunity.
“I’ve been in competitions like this before and placed, but this is the first time I have ever won.”
Soetaert battled against nine other competitors at the talent show, which drew a large crowd on the infield of the grounds.
After all 10 were given the chance to perform, the three finalists were brought to the front of the stage where representatives from KG Country announced the winner.
Finalists also had an opportunity of a lifetime — playing with country superstar Gord Bamford’s band.
Bamford submerged himself into the event, helping out with auditions, judging and providing guidance for competitors.
“He is a very cool and humble guy,” said Soetaert. “He’s a great performer to watch and he talks with everyone and treats them like people.”
Soetaert says that the prize money will be used to pay off part of the recording costs for an EP that she is recording.
Soetaert started singing at a young age and developed a love for it.
“It’s always been a part of my family and a part of me and I hope to carry it wherever I go,” said Soetart. “It’s something that you always carry with you.”
Although there was one winner selected to win the $1,000 cash prize, the job was not easy on the judges — including Bamford.
“The talent was extremely good,” said Bam ford. “It was really close but luckily we were on the same page.”
“You always want to make sure that you pick the right people, but we all agreed on who the winner should be.”
Bamford also has a special connection to the Ponoka Stampede Talent Show and central Alberta — he started his career there many years ago.
“It’s kind of natural for me to be out here, I feel right at home,” said the Lacombe native. “I don’t need to be treated like a superstar or anything, I’m just a normal person.”