'Hometown Idol' contestants wow Coast Guard Festival crowd

A hit talent television show has nothing up on Tri-Cities residents when it comes to vocal prowess. More than 30 contestants - from children to adult - competed in "Hometown Idol" at Waterfront Stadium on Friday night as a kickoff to the 2011 Coast Guard Festival.
Marie Havenga
Jul 30, 2011


“How many people have paid more money for a show not as good as this one?” "Hometown Idol" master of ceremonies Tim Downing asked the crowd of about 200, saying he attends about 50 such talent contests each year. “I’ve never seen a more stellar group of young singers in my life.”

Contestant Jake Jager, 17, a Grand Haven High School junior, wowed the crowd with his animated movements during Garth Brooks’ “Thunder Rolls.”

Jager said he heard about the local contest from his choir teacher, Shirley Lemon, who joined fellow judges Jim Query and Robin Kieft.

“I love to sing and I thought this would be a good opportunity,” Jager said. “And I was right. It went great. All of the talent is really awesome tonight. I’ve got some tough competition.”

Grand Haven High School sophomore Clayton Zimmerman, who plays left guard for the GHHS football team, sweet-songed the audience with a silky smooth tenor rendition of “Bring Him Home” from “Les Miserables.”

“I’ve never really done anything like this,” said Zimmerman, 15, who received thunderous applause. “It was a good experience.”

Coast Guard Festival Executive Director Mike Smith said he was blown away by the talent. Smith requested that the Musical Fountain show be delayed to allow the contest to finish. The pre-empted fountain shot off at about 10:15 p.m.

“I didn’t think there was this much talent in this small area, but it certainly shows tonight,” Smith said. “I’m surprised so many people came out to participate. I’m very pleased.”

Smith said it’s a given that the festival will host a similar event next year.

“We just might have to start earlier,” Smith said. “Too much talent is a good thing.”

Kenowa Hills eighth-grader Rachel Gillette said she read about the contest on the Internet and decided to sing “I Could Have Danced All Night,” from “My Fair Lady.” As Gillette sat with her fellow teen contestants next to the stage awaiting her turn, she soaked up the sounds.

“The talent is really good,” said Gillette, 13. “I don’t know if I have a chance.”

"Hometown Idol" event producer Robin Wojta said the Grand Haven show — with 34 contestants in the junior, teen and adult categories — was the largest her year-old company has ever produced. "Hometown Idol" is based in Berkley, Mich.

“This is unbelievable,” Wojta said as Spring Lake High School freshman Leah VanderLaan crooned to the crowd. “When we were booking the show, Mike Smith said you had a lot of great talent in Grand Haven. He’s right. I can’t believe the level of talent. Each singer is better than the last.”

First-prize winners in each category received $100; second place received $50 and third place got $25.

Winners will also advance to a November 2012 state competition, according to Wojta.

The winners in the junior category were: first, Libby Haan; second, Anja Hochhuth; and third, Grant Teeple. The teen winners were: first, Leah VanderLaan; second, Brittany Flowers; and third, Jacob Jager. Adult winners were: first, Caite Lenahan; second, Margot VanOordt; and third, Tara Moore.



We went to the show.. It was a great show except as visitors we felt like it was strange that the music teachers at Grand Haven and Spring Lake were the judges. That doesn't sound fair to other kids that were far better than many of the winners who were the students of the teachers. We have been to a lot of shows and usually the judges are not local to insure everything is fair between kids that go to the local schools and kids that don't. If you are going to have an Idol Contest Grand Haven.. Make it fair for all kids.. Everyone in the crowd around us were saying the same thing. We will be visiting again next year and hopefully they select judges next year that are not the music instructors and teachers of the kids in the contest. It was a great show but I think that some of the winners will be awakened when they go to the Michigan Finals as there will be no favorites there. Good Luck to all of the winners.

Event Producer

It is unfortunate that you used our company name to post this comment. We have alerted the Grand Haven Tribune about the misuse of our name.


I also went to the show. I think that the previous comment lacks a bit of accuracy and is unfair to the volunteer judges. There were nine finalists that were recognized as winners. There were three judges. One of the judges is not a teacher. Two of them are teachers. I believe both of the judges that are teachers teach at the high school level (one does for sure) so the youngest contestants in the first division (0-12) would not (unless they were MENSA or extrordinarily gifted) likely have high school classes yet. In the teen division, one of the three winners was from Jenison. Obviously, Jenison is not part of Grand Haven or Spring Lake. In the adult division, one of the winners was from Coopersville. While our own personal scorecard was different from the judges scorecard on a few picks, we matched six of the nine finalists. Everyone has their right to an opinion. However, I don't think calling out the judges to "make it fair for all kids" when a kid from Jenison is a finalist is fair to the judges or the contestants.

Event Producer

The comment below WAS NOT posted by Hometown Idol. We have alerted the Grand Haven Tribune that our company name was used inappropriately. Hometown Idol has nothing to do with choosing the judges. Judges are selected by the event promotors. We congratulate all of the Grand Haven Coast Guard Festival Hometown Idol participants and wish the finalists much luck in the statewide competition!


I agree with the comments of the spectator "hometownidol". It doesn't matter if the judges were from Mars. I watched and listened carefully to the entire event and I'm guessing that the producer of this show must have been discreetly disappointed with the results. There were several talented high school students that were clearly better than the judges' top three picks. Those talented teenagers walked home with a new lesson in life regarding politics. But, it was the life experience they were seeking after all. Keep your heads up high and push forward young idols!


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