Performers to compete for $1,000 prize

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BENNINGTON — Local performers will vie for a $1,000 prize in the third annual Bennington County's Got Talent event this Friday at Bennington College.

The event will run from

6 to 8 p.m. at the college's

Greenwall Auditorium.

Several of the 11 contestants are returning this year. They hail mostly from Bennington, with others from Manchester, North Bennington, Poultney and Petersburg, N.Y.

A panel of four judges are set to evaluate the candidates: Chris Oldham, Lynne Worth, Elizabeth Wilwol and Joshua Sherman.

Oldham is the executive director of the Park-McCullough House Association. Worth, a Chicago native, is the executive producer of the Dorset Players. Wilwol is a longtime member of the floral industry who owns The Gift Garden in downtown Bennington with her husband, Dwain Wilwol.

Sherman, the president of Joshua Sherman Productions, began his theatrical career as an archivist and designer, and is the founder of Old Mill Road Recording, a sponsor of the event.

Oldham is the sole returning judge for this year's event.

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As in past years, audience members will also act as the fifth judge, casting ballots for the best act of the night. The ballots will be collected after the final performance.

The event will also feature new emcees: Shannon McLenithan, senior vice president of retail lending at the Bank of Bennington, and John Shannahan, executive director of the Better Bennington Corporation.

"I'm a little nervous," McLenithan said of her emcee duties. "This is my first live gig."

But, she said, she's worked with Shannahan before.

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"I'm more excited just to see the talent, because I don't have any talent," she said. "I can't sing a tune. I can't carry a beat. I'm super-excited to see the talent that's in Bennington County."

McLenithan became involved in the event after Susan Plaisance, advertising manager at the Banner, reached out to her, saying she'd love her to emcee, as McLenithan had just won a Remarkable Women Award, presented by the Bennington Banner and the Manchester Journal, for business leadership.

"I thought, 'what the heck, I'm just going to do it,'" McLenithan said. "Completely out of my comfort zone."

Shannahan said he's "really excited" to be an emcee. He was also a judge at the first event.

"I love the series of events that the Banner does in the community now, and this was one of the first big ones," he said. "[Shows] the reach of interest in events here in Bennington."

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The event is hosted by the Banner and the Manchester Journal and sponsored by Bennington Subaru and Old Mill Road Recording.

Shannahan said he's also excited to work with McLenithan.

"She's really fun to work with," he said.

Turnouts are great at the event, and audiences love it, he said.

"I think they've come to realize that it's much more than just an open-mic night," he said. "It's a real competition. It's interesting, and almost surprising, the level of talent that we have in our area."

Tickets can be purchased online for $15 at benningtonbanner.com/benntalenttickets or by calling 1-800-245-0254.

Then-9-year-old Natalie Perkins won the first Bennington County's Got Talent competition in 2017.

In 2018, Woodford born-and-raised Rich Levesque, known onstage as Bubba Lou Tugget, secured the title of Bennington County's Got Talent winner.

Patricia LeBoeuf can be reached at pleboeuf@benningtonbanner.com, at @BAN_pleboeuf on Twitter and 802-447-7567, ext. 118.


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