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Lucas Tapply has three balls in the air on Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2021, during the initial taping of Aviano's Got Talent at Aviano Air Base, Italy.
Lucas Tapply has three balls in the air on Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2021, during the initial taping of Aviano's Got Talent at Aviano Air Base, Italy. (Kent Harris/Stars and Stripes)
Lucas Tapply has three balls in the air on Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2021, during the initial taping of Aviano's Got Talent at Aviano Air Base, Italy.
Lucas Tapply has three balls in the air on Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2021, during the initial taping of Aviano's Got Talent at Aviano Air Base, Italy. (Kent Harris/Stars and Stripes)
Nephew SouledOut (D'Andre Carter) performed a rap he composed himself during the initial recording of Aviano's Got Talent on Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2021.
Nephew SouledOut (D'Andre Carter) performed a rap he composed himself during the initial recording of Aviano's Got Talent on Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2021. (Kent Harris/Stars and Stripes)
Jasmine Garner performs during the initial installment of Aviano's Got Talent on Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2021.
Jasmine Garner performs during the initial installment of Aviano's Got Talent on Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2021. (Kent Harris/Stars and Stripes)
Contestants from the 2021 Aviano's Got Talent show pose before the start of the competition Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2021.
Contestants from the 2021 Aviano's Got Talent show pose before the start of the competition Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2021. (Kent Harris/Stars and Stripes)
Josh Fay plays the drums during taping Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2021, of the initial installment of Aviano's Got Talent at Aviano Air Base, Italy.
Josh Fay plays the drums during taping Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2021, of the initial installment of Aviano's Got Talent at Aviano Air Base, Italy. (Kent Harris/Stars and Stripes)
Erica McGovern sings her version of ''Chasing Pavements'' during the first installment of Aviano's Got Talent on Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2021.
Erica McGovern sings her version of ''Chasing Pavements'' during the first installment of Aviano's Got Talent on Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2021. (Kent Harris/Stars and Stripes)
Katherine Martinez twirls while dancing during the taping of the first installment of Aviano's Got Talent on Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2021.
Katherine Martinez twirls while dancing during the taping of the first installment of Aviano's Got Talent on Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2021. (Kent Harris/Stars and Stripes)
Melvin Penaflorida raised eyebrows by singing a duet by himself during taping of Aviano's Got Talent on Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2021.
Melvin Penaflorida raised eyebrows by singing a duet by himself during taping of Aviano's Got Talent on Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2021. (Kent Harris/Stars and Stripes)
Teisah Kauvaka-Vaaimamao performs ''Pua Kiele'' during taping of the first installment of Aviano's Got Talent on Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2021.
Teisah Kauvaka-Vaaimamao performs ''Pua Kiele'' during taping of the first installment of Aviano's Got Talent on Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2021. (Kent Harris/Stars and Stripes)
Carla Milanese was one of seven vocalists during the first installment of Aviano's Got Talent on Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2021.
Carla Milanese was one of seven vocalists during the first installment of Aviano's Got Talent on Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2021. (Kent Harris/Stars and Stripes)

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.

harrisk@stripes.com Twitter: @kharris4stripes

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