Oakland County Fair Idol brings music contest downhome

Stephanie Sokol for The Oakland Press

Vocal professionals and amateurs can step on stage and compete for a chance at $500, in the third annual Oakland County Fair Idol competition.

“I think a lot of the fairs are struggling to keep up with keeping everything modern. (Fair Idol) is taking something that’s popular on television and bringing it in for people to experience on a hometown level,” said Oakland County Fair Director Susan Probst. “It brings people in and lets us show them what an awesome day they can have at the fair.”

Auditions, which take place from 6 to 9 p.m. on Tuesday, July 9 and Thursday, July 11, are open to anyone 8 and older. The $10 entry fee covers audition and fair admission, Probst said.

She said the contest has brought more people to the fair that might not otherwise attend.

“I saw how popular it was on TV, and I know there are other singing contests in the area, so I thought it would be a real success to bring to our fair,” Probst said. “We’ve been averaging about 70 to 80 people (competing) each year. Our goal is to get over 100 in the coming years.”

Solos, duets and trios may participate in the event. Auditions can be accompanied by recording or instrument, or performed a capella.

After a three-minute song, vocalists receive constructive criticism from Judge Trish Shandor. New to Fair Idol this year, she has been doing vocal coaching since 1995.

With a bachelor’s of music from Oakland University, Shandor has a lot of experience in a wide variety of vocal styles, Probst said.

Following auditions, contest finals are at noon Saturday, July 13. The first-place singer is awarded $500, while second gets $250 and third place receives $100.

Some past participants have gone on to compete in more contests or sing professionally, Probst said.

FYI: The Oakland County Fair is July 4 through 14, at 12451 Andersonville Road in Davisburg MI. Fair Idol takes place on July 9 and 11 from 6 to 9 p.m., with finals June 13 at noon. Audition music should be 3 minutes in length, accompanied or acapella, and cannot contain explicit lyrics or themes. The audition costs $10, with an additional $10 parking fee, but those who audition can attend fair events for free. To register, visit http://www.oakfair.com, or call the fair office at 248-634-8830.

Last year’s first-place winner, Andre Neumann of White Lake Township, said he enjoyed the contest, which he won with his performance of “Rodeo,” by Garth Brooks.

Neumann has been singing for 20 years, and participating in competitions for five. He has placed highly in national singing competitions, including eighth out of 55,000 competitors in a Dallas contest, and 12th out of 37,000 in Reno, Nev.

Neumann participated in Fair Idol two years in a row. He said the contest has a family-fun element to it and was different from national competitions, because of the variety of ages competing.

Andre Neumann was the 2012 winner of Oakland County Fair Idol. Photo Courtesy of Andre Neumann
Andre Neumann was the 2012 winner of Oakland County Fair Idol. Photo Courtesy of Andre Neumann

“(If you’re competing,) go out there and have some fun,” Neumann said. “Enjoy the day at the fair, bring friends with you and have a good time doing it.”

Oakland County Fair still has traditional fair activities, including contests, animals, arts and crafts exhibits, racing pigs, a circus and a petting farm. The audition fee covers these events.

To keep the crowd’s interest, however, the fair continues adding new activities each year, like this year’s addition of birthday parties. Probst said the planners keep the fair evolving as times change.

“We work really hard as a fair board to keep the fair going for the public, and (Fair Idol) was a new venture,” Probst said. “We’re always trying to reinvent ourselves.”

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