Before the house lights dimmed and the first talented youngster took the stage for Sunday’s Whidbey Has Talent contest, JR Russell bustled about in a bright orange shirt, directing stage hands, conducting sound checks and coordinating volunteers for the event that would top 400 attendees.
Staff members wheeled a piano on and off stage — a practice run for the show’s transitions, which needed to be smooth if the audience was to remain engaged, said Sarah Russell, who coordinated the event along with her husband.
“I thought it flowed quite well,” she said of the “presentation class” of the competition, which showcased the talents of elementary-aged kids.
“The audience seemed to enjoy themselves and the students performed to the best of their abilities.”
Aspiring performers had to apply for the show and meet a deadline for entry, said Sarah Russell.
Next, each act had to make an appointment for their audition. If the act passed the audition stage, they would go on to be mentored by experts in the community.
“They were given opportunities to attend a kind of coaching session so that they could work with other people who perform, and they could take the tips or they could leave the tips,” she said. “It was all to encourage them to continue with the performing arts.”
The show came back for another year because of the popularity of last year’s presentation, she said.
“The kids were excited about it,” Sarah Russell said. “I’m an elementary music teacher for the Oak Harbor Public Schools, and children love to create … so I wanted to give them that opportunity to share their performing talent.”
The group Dragasus, named for the mythic combination of a dragon and a Pegasus, won the day at the presentation level. Third-grader Ariel Losada -Samano and fourth-grader Sabina Taylor comprised the group and danced a hair-whipping routine to the song, “Love Stinks.”
The students adapted a solo number that Taylor had previously learned into a dance for two. They both agreed that performing on stage “was fun.”
Taylor wanted other kids to know that, if they give it their all, they can do it too.
“It’s OK if you are scared,” Taylor said. “Just go out and try your best, smile and use your imagination.”
A father-daughter duo took second, with a rendition of Shakira’s “Try Everything,” from Disney’s “Zootopia.” Fourth-grader Chloe Nix said she likes the song because it helps encourage everyone to try new things.
Nix also liked having her dad, Ronnie Nix, on stage with her.
“It was really fun, and it made me feel a little less nervous because I was up there with somebody,” Chloe Nix said.
The fifth-grade gymnast-team, “Dynamic Duo,” took third. Gracie Cecka and Abigail Mene danced and tumbled their way through a routine to the song, “Counting Stars.”
After the kids made their final bows, Sarah Russell reflected on the students’ performances.
“We were hoping for entertainment and I think they provided that,” she said.
“All felt good about what they did.”