Residents from all over Cherokee County and the surrounding area braved horrible traffic and sweaty weather yesterday evening to attend the New Talent Night event. The New Talent Night event has been a part of the Cherokee County SC Peach Festival schedule for over 30 years, and is sponsored by The Blacksburg Rotary Club. The event is hosting by The Limestone College of Gaffney, and is held in the campus’ lovely Fullerton Auditorium.

The air conditioning in the auditorium struggled to overtake the heat outside and the body heat of the large number of people in the audience, but it was far from uncomfortable. Even when there was a short-term issue with the new digital sound system, no one suffered any loss of enjoyment. The event was kicked off with a short introduction presented by the Cherokee County Rotarian Dr. Felicia Cavallini, and MC-ed by the comedic Jerry Shad McDaniel. The Peach Festival mascot, Peachy Keen made an appearance and posed for photos before the show began. Peachy Keen was but one attendee of many. The auditorium was quite nearly full despite the difficult traffic.

There were six contestants in the Under 15 category, and there was a new opportunity presented in the lobby in association. Mason jars with the Under 15 contestants names on them were laid out so that the audience could contribute one dollar per vote which would decide the Peoples’ Choice Under 15 winner during the intermission. All of the proceeds from the voting process were set aside by the Rotary Club for their charitable scholarship fund.

Young people from Gaffney, Shelby NC, and Woodruff sang, clogged, and did acrobatics for their spectators. sequins and glitter were in great supply, and one contestant dressed in drum majorette style even sported a pink feather in her cap. The winners among these young people were the ballet-acrobatics fusion duo Ava Bell and Kinsley Jamison. They tumbled like gymnasts in matching heather grey dance uniforms; choreographing their impressive movements in unison. They may even have a future in the Olympics. They were that good. They won both the Judges First Place award for the Under 15 category and the Peoples’ Choice award. Second Place was awarded to Melody Morais for her glittering vocal performance of “A Thousand Years” by Christina Perri.

There were 10 contestants in the Over 15 category hailing from Gaffney, Blacksburg, Smyrna, Pacolet, and Spartanburg. There was an abundance of acoustic guitars and fringe-lined pants, folksy songs, and harmonizing. Blacksburg was well represented by Calie Brown, as she sang “Small Town Girl” by Kellie Pickler.

The winner of the Over 15 Talent competition was the guitar, harmonica, and banjo picking duo Split Hickory. The duo came to us from Spartanburg and consists of Briggs Hardy and Parker Cody. Split Hickory played a mountain music folk song called “Fireball Mail” by Fred Rose and Roy Acuff. Their performance pulled a good number of happy whoops and hollers from the appreciative audience. Second place was awarded to Emma Conley who treated everyone to a clogging routine to “Soul Man” by Isaac Hayes and David Porter.

At the very end of the evening, the 2019 New Talent Night winner, Marcus Upton took the stage and sang songs by Elvis and Charlie Rich. He sounded very much like the real deal. If he had been wearing a sequined jumper, he would have made a Vegas-worthy Elvis impersonator. All in all, it was a well spent evening for everyone that attended.

I can hardly wait until next year’s Cherokee County Peach Festival so I can see the next crop of local talent. The Peach Festival is not over, so don’t miss out. The Carnival and food truck portion of the Peach Festival began Friday evening and this Saturday, a concert will be held at Jolly Park on Railroad Ave in Gaffney, SC. Among the performers will be the local Cherokee County folk guitarist, Chris Garlock and Caleb Kennedy of American Idol fame. Caleb Kennedy hails from Spartanburg, SC.