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Locals perform at Night at the Apollo Talent Contest

Feb. 15, 2013 @ 11:54 PM

ASHLAND -- Singer Delany McDaniel didn't let her nerves get the best of her Friday night during the Night at the Apollo Talent Contest at the J.B. Sowards Theatre on the campus of Ashland Community and Technical College.

In fact, McDaniel, a fifth-grade student at Russell-McDowell Intermediate School in Russell, Ky., said those nerves only fuel her performance.

"It's what lets me sing my heart out," she said before going on stage. "When people hear me sing, I want them to feel emotions, and I hope it's pleasant. I like to see smiles."

McDaniel was no stranger to the stage at the theater, where she earned second place in the 2012 contest.

She was one of 16 performers who sang, danced and strummed their hearts out during the event, which is part of the celebration of Black History Month at ACTC said Carol Allen, executive director of Highlands Museum & Discovery Center, which annually sponsors the contest.

"What's so great is that these are all local acts who do everything from singing songs and spoken word performances to playing instruments and dancing," Allen said. "Traditionally, this area is rich in talent, and tonight is a way for everyone to come together to appreciate and display the talents and for us to enjoy in the fact that we are blessed in this area in the amount of talent we do have."

The event tears a page out of the history books in re-creating its own musical showcase, similar to Harlem's Apollo Theatre, which served as a launching point for careers for performers including Ella Fitzgerald, The Jackson 5 and Patti LaBelle. Of course, the critics are a little less harsh at the Sowards Theatre, Allen said.

That's something Anne Stephens, Greenup County fine arts extension agent for the University of Kentucky, appreciated. She performed a tribute to Smokey Robinson during the event with her husband, Tom Stephens.

She said the event is a unique way to celebrate Black History Month.

"When you think about the history of the Apollo, you think about all of the artists who were discovered there and how influential so many of them have been in music," Anne Stephens said. "This event carries that spirit of going out and performing, and you never know what kind of changes can take place in a person's future as the result of that kind of exposure."

Follow Lacie Pierson via Twitter @LaciePiersonHD.

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