On the Stampede Talent Search committee, Stampede time is the culmination of a year’s worth of work. And along with that a full range of emotions and experiences compressed into just ten days.

From the physical demands of running rehearsals, wrangling contestants and producing a state-of-the-art nightly show – to the emotional highs and lows of your favourite contestants moving on – or not – to the next round of the competition, it’s a marathon to get through the ten days. But it’s a marathon at sprint speed.

Shawna and Tristen Chang
Supporting our Junior performer, Tristen Chang, during a Saddledome Steps performance.

Last night was the final show of the competition where we named our 2015 Champion, Christian Hudson. And in a few quick moments after being named Champion, he promptly vowed to donate his $10,000 cash prize to the Calgary Drop-In and Rehab Centre.

Christian demonstrated the true reason behind why we do what we do at Talent Search; we believe that this competition changes lives.

No doubt Christian’s donation will make a difference. And his act of self-lessness is a testament to his values as a person and performer and makes him a fantastic ambassador for our event.

But being on stage last night with the finalists, and back-stage with contestants all week, his story is one of many exceptional young people.

Tynan and Robinson backstage
Assisting Stage Manager Colleen Tynan on the last night of preliminary competition.

I learned about finalists who performed together at open mike nights, yet ended up competing against each other – and sincerely wished the other would win if they couldn’t. I learned about contestants who had been in school together years before with a special connection, loosing touch over the years and reconnecting through our show. And the stories go on and on about new relationships, performance opportunities being created and even new duos and singing groups being formed all because the format of our competition is true to our mandate to discover, develop, encourage and showcase young talent.

And to wrap it all up with a bow, there’s nothing more exciting than having past champions and finalists return to the Boyce Theatre stage as guest performers saying that performing on the Stampede Talent Search stage, the committee, technical crew, band and staff, simply make them feel like they’ve come home.

LT and Melville
Vocal Duo “Leaving Thomas”, comprised of 2012 Champion Annika Odegard and Don Welden winner Bryton Udy, with Heather Melville backstage on Friday night.

I can say with confidence that these stories and experiences are probably not unique. Every volunteer committee Stampede-wide, has meaningful relationships, moments and shared experiences with their guests, competitors and visitors. It is these deeply personal stories that make the tired feet, time away from family and long, long hours so valuable and important to creating the Stampede community.

So while we on the Stampede Talent Search committee clean out the Boyce Theatre, and put away the President’s Trophy for another year, our passion and commitment to put on an even better show next year will be fueled by the exceptional group of performers who gave us the privilege of getting to know them. We are deeply grateful to them for making us feel oh-so good about why we do what we do.