San Saba resident Julie Gates has been entering talent competitions since she was 15 years old, but the biggest of her life was her recent entry in the USA World Showcase in Las Vegas. According to the event organizers, around 200,000 people auditioned for various categories, including dance, commercial spokesperson, comedy, and vocal solo and group. Only 180 in all combined categories went on to compete at the Las Vegas Hilton on May 24.
“I was very surprised to find out so many had tried out,” Julie said. “I shouldn’t have been; with the popularity of shows like ‘American Idol’ and ‘America’s Got Talent’, it was bound to spill over.” USA World Showcase, however, is not a competition that jumped on the bandwagon. It is an established program entering its 20th year, that has switched to Internet voting after several years on the former PAX TV network.
“There are two parts to this competition, which makes it unique in my experience,” Julie explained. “The first part is the competition itself, which is judged by highly respected musicians, actors, modeling and talent agents. They awarded around 60 trophies in the various categories. But the biggest part is the second part, the audience vote. It’s done over a period of six weeks. In this competition, the top 41 non-trophy winners will have their performance videos posted on the competition’s Web site to be voted on by site visitors. Twenty of those will go on to week two and all of the trophy winners, making a total of 80 contestants.” Ensuing weeks will see the field whittled down until the final 10 the week of August 9-13. The highest vote-getter of that week will return to Las Vegas for the next competition and claim his or her prize.
Another twist occurs here, Julie says. “The winner is offered a guaranteed $5,000 prize, or the chance to choose three bags out of six on a table. Three of the bags contain valuable prizes, but three contain certificates which have $100,000 printed on them. For the contestant to win, he or she must choose all three of the bags with the certificates, which is exactly what last year’s winner did. It was amazing to be backstage when she drew that third certificate and won the top prize.”
Julie entered in the Original Music category, singing a song she wrote, “Light In The Shadows,” that has won awards in several area contests. However, her performance was not without its ups and downs. “My performance track CD failed when I got up on stage,” she said, “so, I sang a cappella so I wouldn’t hold up the show.” She was given the opportunity to perform again because of the glitch, but she decided not to do the song again, since the rules stated it would not change her score in the judging. “Singing the song without the track unnerved me a little bit because in some ways, it’s dependent on that background. So this was not my best performance video.”
She failed to win a trophy, so is among the 41 non-trophy winners slated for the first broadcast on http://www.usatvbroadcast.com beginning Sunday July 6 and running through July 9. She has also posted a version of her contest song at her personal site, http://www.juliesweb.com, that includes the performance track she intended to use.
Visitors may vote as often as they want, as long as the votes are not generated by a computer program. Contestants move on in the competition on the sole basis of these votes. “Last year’s winner had over a quarter of a million votes the final week, so this is really crucial,” Julie says. “Every vote does count.”