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Belting it out for stardom

Geraldine Haldner
George and Jeani Ray of Littleton, dressed appropriately, take in the sites of the Vail America Days parade, which carried the theme "Proud To Be An American."
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She’s been practicing her singing while pulling weeds and patting down pansies in the Vail roundabouts.

On Friday, her very public practice sessions paid off.

Gabby Etrog belted out “America the Beautiful’ with calm confidence, sans music and won over the trio of hearts of the “Vail Idol’ contest’s panel of judges.



“There was a soulful quality to her performance,” said Randy “Randy Jackson’ Wyrick, one of three judging the patriotic performances of 13 aspiring singers in the local talent contest modeled after the Fox Channel’s hit show American Idol.’

Wyrick and fellow judges, John “Simon Cal” Dakin and Annah “Paula Abdul” Scully, were enamored with Etrog’s stage presence and singing voice after the first note, Wyrick said.



“She stood up, she sang it a cappella, she had charisma and she had the crowd was eating out of her hands, including us,” Wyrick said.

Etrog, a recent New York transplant, who works as a flower girl in the town of Vail’s public works department, said she enjoyed singing her chosen song over and over aboard a colorful, streamer-festooned float in Vail’s America Days Parade.

“I did my best,” said the 23-year-old acting major from Syracuse University, adding that, aside from a minute of jitters right before her fist performance, she doesn’t regret risking ridicule in the somewhat tongue-in-cheek contest.



Sure of her talent but modest about it, Etrog said her secret is to adjust her performance to her surroundings.

“I always try to look at the crowd and get a feel for the audience and what they are like. I’m always trying to connect with the audience and get my song across to them.”

Though she speaks like a seasoned superstar, Etrog’s plans for the remainder of the holiday weekend would bore even the most ambitious paparazzo.

“I’m going to a party tonight. … and then I’m probably going to take it easy, maybe play some golf,” she said with a giggle. “Nothing too exciting, sorry.”

Likewise, her plans for the $500 winner’s purse aren’t much in the vein of superstardom.

She is planning to go home to New York for a long weekend later this month, she said.

A bit of extra spending money will come in handy, she said.

Third place went to Lindsey Grubbs, a 15-year-old Vail visitor, who sang “God Bless America.” Grubbs, who is on vacation in Vail and entered the contest on a whim has been singing and dancing since she was 3.

Runner-up was Lori Kay Brassfield, a 28-year-old aspiring singer, who also rendered a powerful rendition of “God Bless America.”

Brassfield plays the piano at St. Patrick’s Church and sings in lounges around the Vail Village.

While Etrog will rest on her laurels for the weekend and then likely encounter some teasing from her fellow flower crew-colleagues, Wyrick has been wiping the sweat of his Stetson-shaded brow still amazed at the quality of local talent.

“Usually in these things many are average and someone is really good. In this, everybody was amazing; everybody was really good.

I would hate to have to do this for a living. It was a tough decision.”

Geraldine Haldner can be reached at (970) 949-0555, ext. 602 or at ghaldner@vaildaily.com.


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