Talent Show

"I'm going to sing something from an opera that most of you probably have never heard of. It's called The Magic Flute." So began the mincing--and wholly endearing--performance of a young Mozart scholar during the teen portion of the 2001 Minnesota State Fair's talent competition. (Rest assured, such naive snobbery will be beaten out of this boy in the junior-high locker room.) This past year's edition of the competition was tough to top, what with Papageno piping away in costume, underage cheerleaders doing dance routines seemingly practiced on a stripper's pole, and bouncy young bands inspiring the squeals of their classmates in the front row. Yet year after year, everything about this showcase--which features teen, preteen, and open divisions--is a goofy delight. What's not to like about teenage divas in prom gowns belting out Whitney Houston ballads? Or a Salvation Army steel-drum band? All these elements reach the heights of drama in the Sunday-night finals at the grandstand, when kids and adults alike strut the big stage (and the even bigger simulcast screens) in front of the racing oval. These people probably won't become stars--but they sure make a fine spectacle.


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