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Talent contest winners cross county lines

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Cora Bales (last on the right) holds her first-place trophy after winning Monday night’s Mooreland Free Fair Youth Talent Contest. Standing alongside Bales are others who placed, including (l-r) Rebecca Stanley, third, Zayda Cash, second, and Stella Brown, fourth, who also won the “crowd appeal” prize.
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Rebecca Stanley (l) holds up her "Crowd Appeal" award while standing next to teen talent contest winnerKaylinDenney Tuesday night at the Mooreland Free Fair.
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Austin Haus holds up the first-place trophy and the cards from his magic trick that made it happen Monday night at the Mooreland Free Fair Talent Contest. Other adult winners join him on stage. Bob Stanley (center) was second in the event while Bill Duncan (left) was third.
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Rebecca Stanley reacts when the card Hagerstown magician Austin Haus handed her was the same one she had drawn just minutes earlier. Haus won first place in the adult division of the Mooreland Free Fair Talent Contest Monday evening. His act was accented by a giant balloon inflated usingthe leaf blower seen at the right.

By DARREL RADFORD - dradford@thecouriertimes.com+

Family ties and home-grown talent provided some real magic Monday and Tuesday nights at the Mooreland Free Fair.

Participants from Blue River Valley, Blountsville and Hagerstown took top prizes during talent contests at the 80th annual fair.

Blue River Valley student Cora Bales won the youth division Monday while eight-year-old gymnast Stella Brown of New Castle was judged the night’s “crowd pleaser.”

But the other top award left county lines, as Austin Haus, a magician from Hagerstown, took top adult honors Monday.

Meanwhile, Rebecca Stanley of Blountsville received a plaque for best costume and placed third in the youth while her dad, Bob Stanley, placed second in the adult category – after she talked him into performing.

The number of contestants may have been down for the two nights of talent contests, but the effort and inspirational stories behind the scene added quality where quantity was lacking, according to fair officials.

Youth talent contest

For Cora Bales, daughter of well-known Blue River Valley music teacher Jim Bales, it was a case of special spontaneity.

“We just got my song last night so I had only practiced a few times,” she said.

Her winning song – “Arms” by Christina Perry – resulted in a rousing clapping of hands.

“I heard it at my school talent show and really liked it,” Bales said.

Musical roots run deep for Cora. Not only is her dad a music teacher and highly respected singer himself, but her grandfather and great-grandfather also sang beautifully, she said. Meanwhile, her mother, Tracy Bales, had a dad who was a church pastor.

But singing is just part of Cora’s passion. She has been a member of “Dance With Cindy” for the past nine years, so her Mooreland Free Fair trophy will go alongside several others earned with her fancy footwork.

For the second consecutive year, Zayda Cash was the second-place finisher with a first-rate attitude.

“Everybody deserved the place they got and it was wonderful,” said Cash, a grandddaughter of Jim and Jenny Cash, who are both former contestants here.

Cash performed “Rainbow” by Kasey Musgraves, a song personal to her because of a “tough year.” Adorned with blue hair, she added to the rainbow theme.

“To me, the song says when you go through a hard time, keep looking for the rainbow over your head that’s going to block it all out,” Cash said.

Stella Brown, an eight-year-old New Castle youth, was on a roll – literally. Her gymnastics routine wowed the crowd so much, it earned Monday’s crowd appeal award in addition to her fourth place finish.

Brown showed wisdom beyond her years when asked how she did it.

“Practice,” she said.

Adult contest

A unique father-daughter flair was featured at the fair talent contest stage Monday.

Rebecca Stanley, who repeated her third-place finish of a year ago, inspired her dad to sing in the adult contest, where he placed second.

“I told her if she did it, I would do it,” Bob Stanley said afterwards. “I used to perform when I was younger, just singing in bars and stuff. I got saved and quit going to the bars. Outside of singing in church, I hadn’t done this in years.”

Stanley performed “Crash Here Tonight,” by Toby Keith. Later Monday evening, his wife and Rebecca’s step-mom performed as well.

“I was not expecting my parents to come up here,” Rebecca Stanley said. “I’d rate my dad a 10 and my step-mom a nine. They were both very nervous, but they both sang from their hearts. I think they did awesome.”

The father-daughter story of singing success was amplified when Bob Stanley recalled the many long road trips his preschool-aged Rebecca would make with him delivering recreational vehicles.

“She would ride in the truck with me until she was old enough to go to school,” Bob remembered. “So we had lots of miles with the radio on and singing together.”

Magic man

Using a deck of cards, a giant balloon – and a leaf blower of all things – one could say Austin Haus of Hagerstown blew the judges away with his creativity during the adult contest.

“I wanted to do something about mentalism and have somebody select something at random,” Haus said. “But I wanted to make it funny.”

Haus was assisted by best friend Jordan Wolfe.

Meanwhile, Bill Duncan of New Castle, a frequent participant and winner in previous talent contests, did it again Monday with his performance of a Radney Foster song called “Disappointing You.”

The song choice was a poignant one. Foster is a native of Texas, where one of the two mass shootings occurred this past weekend.

Teen contest

Kaylin Denney, a Blue River Valley eighth-grader, was rewarded for her compassionate heart Tuesday night. 

Denney hadn’t planned to participate in the Mooreland Free Fair Teen Talent Contest. But upon seeing that there was only one entrant taking the stage – a Blountsville youth who will not be a teenager until November – she gathered her courage.

“I just felt I didn’t want her to be alone,” Denney said.

As it turned out, Denney was judged best teen of the evening with her rendition of Christina Perry’s “Arms,” the same winning song from Monday night.

“It’s a special song to me because I remember being in a low time of my life and I would listen to her music a lot to bring me back up,” Denney said.

Ashlynn Golliher, another late entrant, placed second, while Stanley won her third award in two nights, receiving Tuesday’s “crowd pleaser” award.