By Jessie Hellmann Kokomo Tribune
---- — Tammy Loftis remembers singing for the first time as a fifth grader at a fine arts festival in Peru.
Since then, the 39-year-old has sang for a few area bands and performed for events around town, including singing the national anthem following the Night Ranger performance at the Haynes Apperson Festival last week.
“I just love to sing because it brings the feelings out of people,” Loftis said. “The other night I was singing the national anthem, and there was a lady in the front putting her hands up to God and crying. It makes people feel things.”
Loftis, of Peru, was one of five contestants who competed at the WWKI Texaco Country Showdown at the Howard County 4-H fair last night.
The showdown is an annual talent contest that searches for undiscovered country music singers across the U.S. through local, state, regional and national competitions.
Through a series of nightly contests being held through July 12 at the fair, judges will pick five contestants to compete against each other Saturday.
Whoever wins Saturday’s final competition will move on to perform at the Indiana State Fair to compete with other local winners for $1,000, the state title and the opportunity to advance to one of the five regional finals.
Eventually, a national winner is chosen with a prize of $100,000 and the title of the “Best New Act in Country Music.”
The Country Showdown has produced musical artists like Garth Brooks, Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood.
“I’d really love to win the whole thing, but I’m happy to have made it to where I am right now,” Loftis said. “Just being on stage is good for me.”
Loftis planned on singing two numbers including “Hurts So Good” by John Mellencamp, even though it’s more rock-n-roll than country.
“I’ve picked a song that’s going to be a little risky in a country showdown, but what the heck,” she said. “I’m going to sing what I feel.”
Cindy Ison, a senior lecturer in music at Indiana University Kokomo, is one of three judges for the local competition.
She said contestants are judged on potential for marketability, overall talent, pitch accuracy and stage presence and charisma.
“The stage presence is a big thing,” Ison said. “If you just stand there and sing a song, that’s one thing. But if you connect with the audience, that’s another thing. Mobility and pizzazz are important.”
She said It’s been a lot of fun already.
“I’m impressed with what I’ve seen so far.”