Hermiston shows talent in fundraiser for swim team

Ester Contreras sings “Little Snowflake” during the Hermiston High School Swim Team Variety Show. Ester won second best in show and also was second crowd favorite.

Twenty-two acts graced the stage at the Hermiston High School swim team talent show Saturday night, treating the audience to music, dance and a little comedy.

With performances from elementary school children to college students and a local dentist, the seventh annual show drew in talent of all kinds.

Audience members were able to vote for their top two favorites, and a secret group of judges selected the two “best in show.” Winners of the “crowd favorite” category were Mischa Meyer, a Hermiston student who played piano and sang “Beautiful Thing.” Second place, decided by fans, went to five year-old Ester Contreras, who sang the song “Little Snowflake.”

Contreras was a judge favorite, too, taking second place in the “best of show” category. First place went to David Gomez, a recent Hermiston High School graduate who dazzled the crowd with his rapid and elaborate guitar skills.

Gomez said he had performed at the show when he was in high school, and has been playing guitar for many years.

“It’s been three years of solid practice, but I’ve been developing my skills since second grade,” said Gomez, who also plays drums and sings. He is self-taught, and plans to attend Blue Mountain Community College before transferring to Eastern Oregon University to pursue a music degree.

Charlie Clupny reprised his role as emcee, but this year, he promised the crowd, he had new jokes, all of which had a sea-faring theme.

The event, which raises money to help the swim team offset transportation costs for using the Blue Mountain Community College pool in Pendleton, is the team’s only annual fundraiser.

Team members participate in the talent show, as well as helping out behind the scenes.

“We probably start planning a year out,” Hamblin said. The team holds auditions, coordinated by Hamblin’s wife Lynne, about a month before the show. Hamblin said they likely auditioned between 45 and 50 acts this year.

He said they try to include the community, and feature a variety of performers.

Students were trained the previous night to help behind the scenes.

“I’ve been working backstage, moving stuff and getting the mics in place,” said swim team freshman Marcus Mangione.

Hamblin said the show is necessary for the swim team to be able to practice. Because Hermiston does not have an indoor pool, the high school team has to take a bus to Pendleton every day to practice at BMCC’s pool. He said next year, they may end up using the pool in Boardman, but it will still cost money.

“We have the highest transportation budget at the high school,” he said.

Hamblin said they anticipated raising between $4,000 and $5,000 from the event.

He said some of the performers have been involved since the show started.

Ashante Sanders, a Hermiston High freshman, sang the song “Dancing in the Sky” for her third year at the talent show. Sanders had brief trouble with her microphone, but quickly recovered, delivering a song that had a special message for someone she lost.

“I sang it for my grandma,” she said. “I heard it was one of her favorite songs.”

Contreras said she had performed on stage once before, and enjoyed singing in front of people.

“I want to start learning guitar,” she said.


Contact Jayati Ramakrishnan at 541-564-4534 or jramakrishnan@eastoregonian.com

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