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Wyoming singers vie for audience vote in $10,000 Afton competition
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Wyoming singers vie for audience vote in $10,000 Afton competition

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Singers from three states will vie Monday for the $10,000 grand prize of an annual vocal competition in the population-2,006 town of Afton.

In-person and online audiences will vote for the winner in The Vocalist: Presented by Fall River Propane during the Lincoln County Fair. Casper 17-year-old contestant Abby Jozwik’s grandmother always tells the teen she should be on TV shows like "The Voice” or “American Idol."    

“She always says stuff like, ‘Abby, you can sing so much better than all these people on this show, like, you need to go on to them,'” Jozwik said, laughing. “And so when she heard about The Vocalist, she got super excited and pretty much peer pressured me into auditioning.”

Jozwik is one of three Wyomingites including Katelyn Petersen from Cokeville and Bryant Erickson of Star Valley. Besides eight contestants, the show will feature a mini concert by celebrity judge Alex Boye’ whose “diverse blend of African-infused pop music and vibrant dynamic visuals,” has dawn over 1 billion views on his YouTube channel, according to alexboye.com. Also on the lineup are 2019 winner Josh Jardine and previous contest winners EJ Pauni of Cokeville; Case Tippetts of Star Valley; and Melissa Dickey of Blackfoot, Idaho.

The other contestants are Keiyana Osmond of Logan, Utah; Ben Kimball of Layton, Utah; Keishianna Peterson of Pocatello, Idaho; and Paige Anne and Katie Meldrum of Idaho Falls, Idaho. 

The competition formerly known as Swift Idol grew from a small contest during Afton's summer celebrations with a $500 grand prize to the Lincoln County Fair’s music event, general manager of competition organizers SVI Media Duke Dance said. The contest, now in its fifth year, draws auditions from the across the country, this year from the Northwest to Georgia, and about 17,000 voters. 

“it’s still new, and it's still kind of gaining some of its grassroots traction,” Dance said. “But I want people of Wyoming to know that there is this competition that's giving away $10,000. I hope people watch it this year and then in future years, maybe they audition next year; maybe next year, they win $10,000.”

The audience after the first round votes via text message for three finalists. Three judges on stage will choose the fourth, and then the audience vote determines the winner. Jardine and former Miss Wyoming Shelby Thatcher join Boye’ as judges.  

Jozwik's grandmother tells a story about how at age 3 Jozwik shocked everyone with her voice at a party when she sang “Happy Birthday," and singing has always been her passion, she said. 

The incoming Natrona County High School senior performs with audition jazz choirs, but this time she'll be on stage by herself. She’s nervous, but she aims to take the stage with confidence to produce her best vocals.

Should she win, she’d save the prize money for college. She hasn’t narrowed down a field to commit to, but her ideal career would include travel and a variety of new experiences.

“And so with that, with the help of the money, it would definitely open more doors financially for where I could go,” she said.

For now, she’s just thrilled to perform among the talent in a national competition.

“And so I was super shocked when they chose me as one of the contestants,” she said.

Katelyn Petersen, 20, hails from Cokeville and studies cosmetology at Paul Mitchell The School in Logan, Utah. She was chosen as a wild card at a May concert event in Afton among three contestants. She’d auditioned last year and barely missed the cut, but she was invited for a shot this year and won the concert competition in May among two other singers, she said.

She heard about the competition from her friend, Pauni, who’d won a previous year and will perform in this year’s show.

She stated singing as a child beside her mother’s piano and overcame stage fright after she froze during a sixth grade play audition to try out two years later for a school musical. She landed her first lead role to many compliments about her big voice, which continued to ring in plays and choir through high school.

She’s missed singing since she graduated in 2018, which is one reason she tried out for The Vocalist.

If she wins, she’d use the money toward the schooling for herself and her soon-to-be husband, she said.

She still experiences stage fright, she said.

“And that's kind of why I decided to do this, to kind of just push out of my comfort zone,” she said.

The competition gives her a chance to share a love of music with others, she said.

“I think it would just be a really fun, fun thing to watch,” she said, “because there is so much talent.”

Erickson of Star Valley returns after he competed in The Vocalist last year. "Competing in last year's competition was fun and exhilarating while also being slightly terrifying,” he said in the bio on The Vocalist website

He’s begun to write his own music besides singing and playing, and he plans to go back to school for music education after taking a year to work.

“But I mainly want to write music and sing for the rest of my life if I ever get the chance!” he said in the bio. “Something about adrenaline you get when you perform is so addictive."

Follow arts & culture reporter Elysia Conner on twitter @erconner

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