Aviano shows off talent again in $2,500 online contest
By KENT HARRIS | STARS AND STRIPES Published: February 17, 2021
AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy — The 31st Fighter Wing is providing a break in the pandemic routine with its Aviano’s Got Talent contest, complete with cash prizes and a celebrity judge.
The competition kicks off Thursday on the 31st Force Support Squadron Facebook page at 6 p.m. local time. A March 5 finale will give viewers a chance to award the winner $2,500.
“We’re just trying to bring something people can look forward to, at least for the next three weeks,” said Serena Johnson, director of the base community center and emcee for the event.
Ten contestants performed Tuesday during the first segment, when three judges narrowed the field to seven competitors.
Two more will be eliminated the following week, leaving five for the final show. Judges will then select the top two competitors and viewers will choose between them.
Carson Kressley, who rose to fame on “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy,” will be a judge the second week. Country singer Jessie James Decker and Grammy winner/actress Ashanti were guest judges at last year’s contest.
Airmen 1st Class Teisah Kauvaka-Vaaimamao and Lucas Tapply had almost exactly the same answer when asked why they wanted to participate in this year’s series.
“To get out of my comfort zone,” said Kauvaka-Vaaimamao, a 20-year-old from Hawaii. She sang “Pua Kiele” in Hawaiian while playing the guitar.
Kauvaka-Vaaimamao said she had never really performed in public, though “everyone in my family sings.”
Tapply was one of three non-vocalists. Josh Fay played the drums. Katherine Martinez, the only returner from last year’s Aviano Idol competition, danced this time.
“No one else is juggling,” Tapply said. “So I’ve got that going for me.”
He said he learned how to juggle while watching YouTube more than a decade ago.
“I’m from New Hampshire and one winter we had a big snowstorm,” Tapply said. “I had to stay at home and there was nothing else to do.”
He had performed in front of an audience only one other time — a junior high talent show — before Tuesday.
Aviano has alternated between the formats of two popular reality shows, “American Idol” and “America’s Got Talent,” to allow those with non-singing talents to showcase their skills, Johnson said Wednesday.