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Tim Hadler as Hank Williams Revisited

Performers came from all over to compete for bookings during the second Showcase of Winter Texan season.

The event, held at Casa Del Valle RV Resort in Alamo on Thursday, Jan. 18, was the second one held this season to give musicians, comedians and variety acts an opportunity to “show of their stuff” to Winter Texan park activity directors with the hopes of signing bookings this season and next. Some were even booking into 2020.

The second show was comprised of 32 entertainers, all given nine minutes to wow the “judges.” Some of those entertainers are from the Valley, but mostly they came from places like Las Vegas and Branson, Mo. with titles that included Nashville Recording Artist, Entertainer of the Year or other such accolades. Some have performed thousands of shows. Eighteen of them were first timers to the Showcase, not to be confused with first-time performers by any means.

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Wade Landry from “Swingin' Cajun Style”

Here is a glimpse at three of those artists and the story of their first Showcase.

Kainoa Kamaka

Kamaka was the 31st of the 32 performers during the day. In other words, he performed from minute 270 to 278 out of the 287 total performing minutes allowed. In fact, several people had already left for the day – that was their mistake.

Kamaka knocked his performance out of the park.

The first timer who was born and raised on the main island of Hawaii and now works for the University of Texas-San Antonio (for a few more days until he begins an early retirement) energized and rewarded those who stayed, about 80 percent of them, with his song, dance and his ukelele.

While he was a first-timer to the showcase, he was in no sense a rookie entertainer. Kamaka – whose full name is Kimokeo Keo Kainoa Kamakamanoanoaluahine (“But people can call me Kai,” he says to the relief of the crowd.”) frequently entertained while living in Hawaii and was part of a group named Positive Connection that traveled to schools with an important message.

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Gayle from “Dale & Gayle”

“We went to schools to teach kids about self-esteem, which is so important for them,” he said. “The group was me, a motivational speaker and a magician/juggler/comedian and I took the ukelele in the schools and had to come up with an act that would really grab them. They would see a ukelele and think I was gonna perform a luau or something so I needed something else.”

His performance of “Johnny B. Good,” was lightning let out of a bottle. He introduced it by telling the audience how he had been influenced by artists such as Michael Jackson, Elvis, Jimi Hendrix and, of course by Chuck Berry, who first wrote and performed the hit in 1958.

Not only did Kamaka explode with energy on stage, he also included some Michael Jackson moves, some Elvis Presley shaking, and the famous duckwalk that Berry made extremely popular on stage while playing the guitar. Then, to top the performance off, Kamaka dropped with a split on stage, put the ukelele behind his head a la Hendrix and jammed to the song's guitar solo. The audience yelled, laughed and applauded in enjoyment. His connection to those in attendance were validated, booking 14 shows for next year. More importantly, he definitely left a good impression for those who will be still looking to fill in some entertainment spots.

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A packed house watched 30-plus entertainers perform at Casa del Valle in Alamo during the seond Showcase of the season.

“He nailed it,” said one performer. “There was a line waiting out the door for him.”

Kamaka said he had no idea what to expect. His girlfriend, who is from Edinburg, had been telling him about the showcase for years. After researching it, he decided to make the journey. After not playing music as much as he would like for the past 10 years, his early retirement looks like it's on a good path.

“Performance wise I just wanted to give people a glimpse of who I am,” said Kamaka, who lives in San Antonio. “I love to entertain and have the chance to showcase the ukelele differently. I was blessed. I get to play music again.”

Johnny Bird/Voice of the Legends

Johnny Bird owns an entertainment company – Birdland Productions – and soon that company will have its new offices and production studio in Las Vegas. Bird, like many of the performers, is no stranger to putting on a show and estimates he's done more than 5,000 shows in his career. “I know the stage pretty well,” he said.

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Johnny Bird from “Voice of the Legends”

But he almost never made it to the Valley.

While performing a bar show three years ago in his hometown, just south of Minneapolis, a Winter Texan approached him and told him about the Valley.

“He told me I should check it out and gave me an entertainer's phone number,” Bird said. “So I researched a little bit and called this person.”

The person on the other end of that call, however, was no help to Bird, who recalled being told things like “don't come down here and waste your time,” and other things. “Then he hung up on me,” Bird said, laughing.

If anything, however, that piqued his attention and two years later he tried again, this time reaching Robert Ferguson, the creator and organizer of the showcase. Entertainers are only allowed to perform at one of the two showcases. However, Bird has a few completely different shows – one is “The Fabulous Vegas Boys” and another is “Voices of the Legends.”

Less than a week before he embarked on a nearly 1,500-mile journey, his partner for the first show called – his interest had wained and he told Johnny he wasn't going to perform.

“I had to go, no matter what, but had to come up now with something for the showcase since we were going to do dueling pianos,” Bird said. “I couldn't do that by myself.”

His partner in one of the other acts he performs, and a former winner of Ed McMahon's Next Big Star, Don Tersigni, drove all night from Indiana to Minnesota to help Bird come up with something.

“We worked on a script and then I filmed him in front of a green screen,” Bird said. “Then I worked from 10 at night to 6 a.m. to finish it off.”

Bird started his trip to the Valley and bought “the biggest television I could with the money I had in a pawn shop in Waco.” So I worked the script and when we turned the TV on, it looked like he was live – I don't think the people could get over it since it was so different.

It was impressive enough to garner Bird 17 shows in the booking room.

“I had to tell him that he got more applause than I did,” Bird said. “We definitely weren't up there doing what everyone else was doing.”

Curt Reister/Curt James

Curt Reister is a local performer whose experience is small compared to the previous entertainers. He was like the kid in a candy store, however, at his first showcase.

“I'm chasing my dream at 50,” Reister said. “It was really cool and I was excited to perform and to be around all those great performers.”

Reister picked up four bookings at the show and has received some calls with more opportunities attached. He said he's all ready for next season's show. “Maybe I'll talk a little more or tell a joke, or try to get more songs in my nine minutes,” he said. “I realized then when you only have nine minutes, there's so much more to it than just having a good voice. It's all about whether you can give them a good show and keep them entertained.”

Reister lives in Alamo Country Club, a 55-and-older community. He has performed there as well as seen many of the performers there. He said he is especially looking forward to seeing Southern Anthem perform, a family band that hits it big every year they've been to the Valley.

“They are entertaining and I'm excited to see them,” he said. “I may never achieve Southern Anthem's success but this truly has been a dream of mine to get up there and have a blast making people smile. Maybe I'm still naïve about the possibility of the future, but I can do this for a long time and there are so many parks out there.”

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