If the goal of entertainers is to make an audience laugh, cry, ponder or feel emotion and become fully engaged, then the Valley Star Awards achieved its goal in spades.
Each year, Winter Texans vote for their favorite entertainers in several categories leading up to the overall Entertainer of the Year. The event is organized by producer Robert Ferguson along with the Winter Texan Times.
Performances between award announcements came from Jason Whorlow, Kelli Marie, Dave & Daphne, 4 His Glory, Vance Greek, and Lindley Creek. Whorlow, known as The Piano Man got the crowd’s blood flowing, and was quick to let them know that the more energy they provided, the more he could reciprocate – and he did.
Audiences laughed as John Greer of Lindley Creek sang “Little Dipper,” wailing and crying loudly into a red bandana over the loss of his fictitious girlfriend to chewing tobacco. They also stood in honor of veterans and some members shed a few tears during performances from Dave & Daphne and 4 His Glory, who came away with trophies by the end of the night.
4 His Glory was named the Gospel Group of the Year and their barbershop-style a cappela performance kept those in attendance completely focused on their four-part harmonies.
Dave & Daphne, however, clearly stole the show. Following the song “Hey Good Looking,” Dave performed “El Cumbanchero,” an instrumental he recently showcased with his uncle Jess McReynolds on the Grand Ole Opry. Daphne followed with an audience favorite “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” and Dave then electrified the audience and other musicians with his blazing fast performance of “Flight of the Bumble Bee” and dueling banjos – by himself - on the banjo. The duet topped all of that with a chilling medley of “I Will Always Love You” and “Always On My Mind” that sent those in attendance to a rousing standing ovation. Finally, the duet took the music to yet another level with a powerful rendition of “The Lord’s Prayer” by Daphne before closing with a medley of “Where The Eagles Fly” and “God Bless America,” an amazing tribute to veterans in attendance.
While voting was done prior to the show, their performance would have been strong enough to earn them the Duet Musical Group of the Year right there. However, they returned to stage a few minutes later after it was announced they had won.
“We have had the privilege of entertaining in this beautiful Rio Grande Valley for the past six years,” Daphne said. “We often tell our audiences that we can’t be us without you. It’s truly an honor to receive this award. From the bottom of our hearts – thank you for allowing us to do what we love.”
“Congratulations to the winners and nominees for this year’s Valley Star Awards. With an abundance of high quality performers, it’s a real accomplishment just to be nominated for one of these awards. During the 30 years we have been publishing the Winter Texan Times, we have seen more and more top-notch entertainers coming to the Rio Grande Valley to perform for our Winter Texan friends,” said Jim Brunson, owner and publisher of the Winter Texan Times. “The Valley Star Awards recognizes the best of the best, and Robert and Billie Ferguson always do a fantastic job of lining up a great show featuring some of the most talented performers in the Valley for everyone to enjoy. I know everyone had a great time at this year’s show.”
The nominees who appeared on this year’s Valley Star Awards ballot were chosen by activity directors at their first meeting of the year. Some people wondered why Leslie Blasing and Gordy & Debbie were not on the ballot this year. Blasing announced at last year’s awards presentation that she wanted to remove her name from eligibility this year to allow other entertainers an opportunity to receive the award. She was voted Female Vocalist of the year for five straight years, and had also been named Entertainer of the Year. Gordy and Debbie agreed. They were six-time winners of the Valley Star Awards Duet Musical Group of the Year. Consequently, a new rule was established whereby those entertainers who receive one of the Valley Star Awards five times will not be eligible for future ballots.
Gordy and Debbie, however, received a lifetime achievement award for their longstanding success and popularity in the Valley.
Bill Chrastil was named Male Vocalist of the Year as well as Entertainer of the Year for the second straight year. Chrastil, whose Valley schedule is completed for 2018, was on his way to Florida to visit his daughter and to perform a few shows when he received word.
“That’s just so awesome and I am thankful for the Winter Texans taking their time to go out and vote,” said Chrastil, who performs an Elvis tribute but also imitates the voices of world class singers such as Roy Orbison, Neil Diamond, Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson and others (including Elmer Fudd – see related story). “Ever since my wife and I came to the Valley, people have been so nice and we have made many friends there. We can’t wait every year to come back.
The McAllen Nikki Rowe High School group Razz Ma Tazz won Musical Group of the Year (not related).
The Cruisers were named best Rock N Roll Band of the Year.
Female Vocalist of the Year was Maggie May.
Gomer & Patsy won the Novelty or Comedy Act of the Year
The Individual/Small Band/Variety Act of the Year went to Helen Russell & Co.
Southern Anthem was named the Family Musical Group of the Year and Regan James & Hired Hand was named Country Western Band of the Year.