Shawn Wilder's performances during the final night of Chautauqua Lake Idol were emotional for the audience and impressive for the judges, as the Westfield native was crowned the competiton's winner Monday.
In front of a packed crowd on the shoreline at the Floating Stage in Bemus Point, Wilder took off his trademark cowboy hat, nodded and took a humble bow after being named the sixth winner of the competition.
"Short and sweet: thank you very very much," Wilder said. "It's a dream come true."
Wilder was chosen from finalists Kira Chadwick and Steve Davis, who along with Wilder performed any two songs they wanted, not having to fit into a specific genre as in previous weeks. This resulted in some original songs, as well as classic covers.
For his first performance, Wilder sang Craig Morgan's "Almost Home," which he said was one of his favorite songs.
"I always sang it," he told the audience before his performance. "It's a little funny song, it gets everybody to giggle a little bit."
After the song, all four Idol judges gave him positive reviews.
"It amazes me someone your age can sing with the wisdom of someone much older who has gone through many more life experiences than you have," judge LouAnn Dobmeier told the 22-year old Wilder. "You gave me goosebumps and I think so many people in the crowd felt the same way."
"You have never sang a bad note for me from your audition until now," said judge Sarah Malinoski-Umberger. "Every single song that you sing I can feel that it comes from deep inside you, and that is a gift."
From a light song to an emotional one, Wilder chose to perform a song that he wrote for some close friends who gave birth to a stillborn last year. While singing "Hailey's Grace," many audience members and some of the judges were wiping away tears.
"I went through 'Hailey's Grace' all day," Wilder told The Post-Journal after he was crowned the 2009 Idol. "I couldn't get through it without getting really emotional and I was worried that was going to happen again. I really wanted to bring my passion in. I really happy I did get through it."
After the performance, he again received positive reviews from teary eyed judges.
"Music, to me, is all about telling stories," judge Mike Quimby said after Wilder's second song. "You told us a story tonight, and you told it well."
Wilder joins past Idol winners Susan Waite (2004), Marla Harris (2005), Lauren Checcini (2006), Ben Blood (2007) and Billy Thomas (2008), and every winner except Blood performed a song for the audience Monday night. Bemus Bay Pops chairman Dan Dalpra, County Executive Greg Edwards and Senator Cathy Young also made appearances.
Along with the title of 2009 Chautauqua Lake Idol, Wilder walks away from the competition with a three night stay at Geneva-On-The-Lake, an overnight stay and admission to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, dinner for two once a month at Roberto's among other prizes by local merchants.
In his final effort, Davis sang the Carpenter's "Superstar" and Ray Charles' "Hallelujah I Love Her So." Miss Chadwick performed one of her favorite songs, "Bleeding Love" by Leona Lewis and an original song co-written by one her best friends called "I've Always Been in Love With You."
This concludes the sixth year of the Chautauqua Lake Idol Regional Vocal Competition, organized by WWSE 93.3 FM, a Media One Group radio station. The contest began when dozens of contestants tried out for auditions, and a field of 12 performed for the first time in front of the crowd in Bemus Point on June 29.
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