For many people, a highlight of this year's Nickel Days in Thompson was the Thompson's Got Vocal Talent talent show, with judges Zack Werner, former Canadian Idol judge and member of the band Haymaker, Bennett Helfrich, manager of the band, and Betsy Wrana, who has taught piano for 15 years.
There were 17 singers in the competition, organized by Donna Wilson, which started at 1:30 on Sunday afternoon and went until about 4:30. They sang songs by current county favourites Taylor Swift and Sugarland, traditional hymns, acoustic versions of top 40 hits and classic rock, with some contestants even venturing out to perform a capella or to accompany themselves on the guitar or piano.
Each of the contestants sang their song and received critiques from all three judges. Werner and Helfrich didn't hold anything backing in their commentary, pointing out everything from lack of proper pitch to lack of talent, but also gave credit where credit was due.
After that, the judges selected six people from everyone who had performed to be the finalists. These included Rikki Linklater, Raylee Hiscock-Shaw, Haylee McDonald, Carl Bennett, Michelle Pegus and Melissa Kelly.
The six finalists each had a chance to perform a new song. This time, the judges did not critique them but saved their judgement for the final decision making process. After all the finalists performed their last songs the judges deliberated and named the first, second and third place winners.
Coming in third place, and winning $200, was Haylee McDonald, who sang Gotta Be Something More and Just Might by Sugarland. The second place prize of $300 went to Rikki Linklater, who sang The First Cut is the Deepest by Sheryl Crow and Crazier by Taylor Swift. The honour of winning first place, and the $1,000 that went with it, went to Carl Bennett, who wowed the crowd -- and the judges -- with his folksy vocals and acoustic guitar playing. Bennett, a native of Newfoundland who has lived in Thompson for some time, first performed a song his sister wrote and later strummed his guitar to the tune of Days Go By by Australian country crooner Keith Urban.
Bennett, when he first entered the competition, didn't think he'd be the one walking away with the first place title.
"I was happy with just coming down and just singing -- that's just me, I like coming out and singing for the crowd and I love being on stage. I like being amongst my friends in a group and singing around the kitchen table," he explains.
He also says he, along with his friend Tony Whalen, have performed a lot around town to help raise money for special events and projects in the City of Thompson.
Bennett says the best advice he has for anyone thinking of performing in front of a crowd or competing in a talent show would be to practice as much as they can, and to see if they can learn an instrument such as a guitar to accompany them.