ILLUMINATE Talent Search @Sustainival

One of the things that has inspired me the most over the years, is watching the talent emerge from within our community through the Homegrown Talent Search, Search for Cosette, Oilcan Talent Search and a long list of events where performing artists got to share their work with an audience and a panel of judges.

The names that jump into my mind from over 20 years of being involved either as an organizer or judge here in Fort McMurray or down in Drumheller (where I was working pre-1996) include Gord Bamford, Craig Moritz, Amy Hef, Tim Heggie, Ayah Sutton, Lucas Meeuse, and many others.  In more recent times, I have been delighted with some of the emerging young talents that reside in our region, people like Francesco and Helena Rizzuto, Reece Stanley, Aarin Lofstrand, Samson Lee, and countless other who are nurtured and encouraged in our school systems and by our community.

With the absence of interPLAY, I've been working with a number of different organizations to get the ILLUMINATE Talent Search off the ground.  The first confirmed competition was announced yesterday during the media conference for Sustainival, the world's first green carnival.  As part of that amazing event, we will hold a preliminary round on Saturday, August 30 at MacDonald Island, with a final round slated for Sunday, August 31.

Much like the Homegrown Talent Search format, ILLUMINATE will be primarily geared toward single, duo and small ensemble groups that require little to no set up - the amount of time allotted per contestant will be limited.  A panel of celebrity judges will be assembled and offer an entertaining mix of sage wisdom and crafty criticism.

Within this format, we've had dancers, singers, actors, and comedians.  We could also have magicians, beatboxers, performance visual artists, or any kind of a performance art that is family friendly and interesting to watch.

The ILLUMINATE Talent Search is for amateur artists residing in Wood Buffalo.  It is for all ages - with parental consent for those younger folks that require it - and all disciplines.

Thanks to the good folks at Sustainival, there is incentive - beyond the rush of being in front of an audience - to come out of your basement or bedroom and share your talent.

First Prize - $2,500
Second Prize - $1,000
Third Prize - $500

Big Spirit Prize - $500 (for the most outstanding attitude and energy)
Spotlight Prize - $500 (for that emerging artist who demonstrates the greatest potential)

Artists are always in a state of development.  These dollars can go a long way to help cover the cost of training, materials, and equipment.  This could be a launching pad for artists to take their skills, and their performance career, to the next level.

If you're interested in signing up, send an email to, and watch for more details coming soon.

Oh, and anticipate a second ILLUMINATE Talent Search that should be announced within the next week.  This community is going to shine light on artists who so richly deserve to be seen, appreciated and encouraged.  Stay tuned.

All of this effort has an alternate purpose.  As we look to 2015 and the upcoming Western Canada Summer Games, we are going to be needing cultural performers of all kinds.  With the opening and closing ceremonies, several big shows called "Big Nights", entertainment opportunities at the athlete's village and a potential new arts festival that we hope to get off the ground at the same time, we need to see who is out there.  So, while you may be singing your heart out for a rambunctious crowd at Sustainival, there could be an official or two from the 2015 Western Canada Summer Games who may be making notes and taking names.

Admittedly, we're running late on all this stuff.  With the circumstances on the special event front the last six months, we've had to scramble to adjust.  We're counting on your to HELP US spread the word, and encourage people you know to get involved and share their talents.

In some ways, this is a transitionary summer, as several new amazing facilities get completed and made operational late this year or early next.  We want to keep the arts alive and in front of as many people as possible.  Our deepest gratitude goes to our friends at Sustainival for helping us do that on the Labour Day long weekend.


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