The 2021 LaPorte talent event continues to shine a spotlight on entertainment hopefuls


by Donavan Barrier

Contributor


LAPORTE, Ind.– Despite the ever-changing stats and concerns during the COVID-19 pandemic, the regional singing competition Hoosier Star has not only been able to adapt with accolades but has found new opportunities to expand courtesy of innovative audience platforms and connecting technology.

Dreamed up by La Porte stage visionary Sheryl Edwards, last year’s 2020 Northwestern Indiana-based competition faced delays and uncertainty, including postponing auditions because of rising virus cases. For Spring 2021, early auditions are already underway in preparation for the next competition.

The 2021 Hoosier Star Judging Panel for the Preliminary Finals are Diane Perigo of Lowell, (left to right), Jenevieve Milo and Lee Meyer, the latter two both of Michigan City. (PHOTO BY DONAVAN BARRIER)

Tim King, executive director of La Porte County Symphony Orchestra and Chairperson Cherri Blair-Drayton brainstormed and teamed together to assure the show debuted another edition despite the pandemic challenges. They joined the event’s planning board members to embrace a “virtual stage venue” with live-streaming performances.

“[Livestreaming] was all new for us,” Blair-Drayton said.

“You never know who’s watching.”

With help from local media marketing company Duneland Media, Hoosier Star was able to meet their budget and spread the competition to households in quarantine and beyond. By broadcasting via Facebook Live. YouTube, and the LSCO.net website, family members and friends across the nation and abroad were able to enjoy the contestants’ performances without risk.

The winners of 2020 were Alyse Flores of La Porte for the Adult Division and Julia Larson of Chesterton for the Youth Division. Both received $1,000 prizes and the opportunity to perform with the orchestra in La Porte’s Fox Park on Sept. 27, 2020.

“The thing that shocked me was we had over 11,000 views,” King said. “I had no idea how broadly this would be viewed.”

Lindsay Baugh auditions for the Preliminary Judges as a hopeful finalist for the 2021 Hoosier Star Competition in LaPorte. (Photo by Donavan Barrier)

Anybody who watches the show on either platform is able to watch free. However, to vote for contestants, fans pay a $15 donation. All proceeds go to the non-profit La Porte County Symphony Orchestra.

Created in 2005 as a fundraiser for the LCSO, Hoosier Star was a response to the rising popularity of the FOX network hit show “American Idol.King said the competition was an instant success, and by 2015, news spread as far south as Evansville in Southern Indiana to as far north as Grand Rapids, Michigan. 

The spread of popularity across the region continues to impress Edwards, the event’s creator.  

“It’s amazing to be a part of Hoosier Star, so much, it gives me chills thinking about it,” Edwards said.

Singer Jessica Johnson auditions for the Hoosier Star Preliminary Judging Panel on March 23, 2021 in LaPorte. (Photo by Donavan Barrier)

The initial round of 2021 auditions were held last month at Bethany Lutheran Church in La Porte with first round finalists announced March 23.  The 2021 Hoosier Star Finalist Competition is planned for Sept. 11, 2021 with an anticipated return to an in-person live audience at the La Porte Civic Auditorium, 1001 Ridge St. in LaPorte, with both an in-person audience and live streaming through the previously mentioned platforms and LCSO.net.

Traditionally, more than a 1,000 fans, family and curiosity seeking ticket holders cram into the LaPorte Civic Auditorium each year to witness performances and judges’ commentary, as well as be part of the cheering and voting at the final competition, which is also broadcast on WIMS radio station in Michigan City.  At the Hoosier Star finalist competition, the narrowed down contestants sing a song of his/her choice, accompanied by musicians from the LaPorte Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Maestro Alastair Willis.


Donavan Barrier is a 2019 graduate of Purdue Northwest who works in broadcast communications and journalism, including work with local PBS station WNIT in South Bend. He can be reached at donavanbarrier638@gmail.com