Dakota County shows its skills
For more than a decade, the Dakota County Fair has played host to a showing of talent. A gallery of acts from singers and songwriters, to instrumentalists, dancers and gymnasts. The event has no rehearsals or run-thrus. It is not professionally televised or expertly edited. Instead, it is a showcase of talent grown in the backyard of Dakota County.
This event is simply called, the talent contest.
The fair's annual talent contest is such a strong part of the Dakota County Fair that fair staff is not certain when the first show was performed. But everyone seems to agree it is quality, family entertainment in its purest form.
According to fair board member Brenda Taylor, this year's talent show will feature an array of approximately 21 acts. Along with several singing contestants, the competition will also showcase jazz dance and hip hop groups along with instrumentalists and at least one drum soloist.
Michelle Kaslow, office manager at the Dakota County Fairgrounds, said there is a delicate screening process that occurs before contestants are allowed to perform in the talent contest. This process ensures that each act is acceptable entertainment for any age of audience.
"We have a lot of kids and adults that come in to show off their musical talent or other talents that they have; it's almost like American Idol, but on the county level," Kaslow said.
However, the fair's talent show is very different from most contests aired as reality TV. While TV shows are often edited and arranged to show expert glimpses of the contestants' performances, the acts seen at the fair are only performed live, requiring performers to hone their skills even further.
Though most contestants practice their acts for hours prior to performing, they are never given the opportunity to rehearse on the talent contest stage. This requires each contestant to be extremely flexible with their performance skills.
After performing their act for the first time during one of two public preliminary showcases, the acts are judged. Taylor said contestants can range in age from child to adult and are judged within their appropriate age group, making it even more important that each act is family appropriate. The three categories include pre-teen, teen and open divisions. This years contestants seem to be most prevalent in the teen category.
Following the preliminary showing, the acts selected as top qualifiers in their category are invited back to perform in a final competition. During the final competition, the acts are judged once again and winners are selected to advance to the talent competition at the Minnesota State Fair.
"I think what is most unique is to see the different talent that is out in the county," Kaslow said. "The talent show is actually run in collaboration with the State Fair talent contest. That is why the Dakota County talent show is so important, to have representation at the state level."
The preliminary talent shows at this year's fair will be held at 6 p.m. Monday, Aug. 9 and Tuesday, Aug. 10 on the free entertainment stage. The final competition will be held from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 14 on the same stage.