Best of the Foolies: April Foolies talent show raises estimated $30,000
By Wes Wade | (email@example.com)
They came, they sang, they danced, and with a little magic, comedy and fun to top it all off, the annual April Foolies talent show ended Saturday night with an estimated $30,000 raised for two area nonprofits.
The “talent show with a twist,” now 11 years running, was again held in the Clayton Center for the Arts on the Maryville College Campus. The money raised this year will be split between Gateway to Independence, known as “The Gate,” and the New Hope Blount County Children’s Advocacy Center.
The Gate helps adults with disabilities to achieve independence — providing them with social and vocational activities — while New Hope serves child victims of physical and sexual abuse.
There were five competing acts this year, all vying for the most “bribes” from the audience. That’s where the “twist” comes in: the act who receives the most money from the audience — which was collected from volunteers passing buckets and dipping pool nets into the middle of the crowd — wins the competition.
Aaron Killian, one of the 16 members of the “Committee of Fools” this year, said it’s a unique event that draws a large and diverse crowd.
“It’s just a unique concept,” Killian said. “Edward Harper (another 2013 committee member) and I call it the talentless talent show because it doesn’t matter what kind of talent you have. You don’t have to have talent. You just have to move the audience to their pocket books.”
This year’s winner was “The Gate Crashers,” a singing group made up of some of the 48 individuals that the Gate assists. The group, who was also last year’s winner, raised $3,925.23 worth of bribes from the audience. With the total amount of bribes collected totaling $6,922, the group reeled in more than half of all bribes given throughout the night.
Taking into account ticket sales, Killian said, the event was projected to have cleared $30,000 in funds raised.
“When you split that down the middle, what that means to The Gate is they’re able to have stuff to serve these special needs adults,” Killian said. “And what it means to New Hope is they have the ability to serve these kids that have gone through abuse.”
Annual event another hit
The winning act “The Gate Crashers” sang the Roy Orbison classic “Pretty Woman,” dressed in Orbison-era black suits and ties. The rest of the group joined those in the Orbison band by following up with a rendition of “Hallelujah,” originally a Leonard Cohen song, dressed in white choir robes.
Also performing Saturday night was Josh Livingston and Jarrod Millsaps’ Blues Brothers Tribute Show, in which the two and their full band behind them performed “Soul Man,” “Gimme Some Lovin’” and “Everybody Needs Somebody.” The Greg Carney Project, a Knoxville-based dance group, had two separate groups dancing to hip-hop music, The Maryville and Alcoa Kiwanis performed a patriotic song and dance in honor of the country’s veterans and the young Ben Young, a magician and comedian, rounded out the group with a humor-laced magic show.
Then there was the special guest performance by Blount County native Laurel Wright, who was the 2012 Texaco Country Showdown Winner. Wright and her band gave the audience a three-song performance to end the night.
Michael Kelley, New Hope board member and co-chair for this year’s event, said he was more than glad to be a part of the show.
“It’s an honor to be a part of this event,” Kelley said. “The outpouring of love and commitment from everyone has just really made it special.”
Debra Whaley, co-chair and board member of The Gate, said more than 1,000 people attended.
“They have taken it to a new level in the Clayton Center,” Whaley said. “We’ve been working for about eight months; we’ve had more than 100 volunteers. It was a lot of work, but it’s a well-oiled machine. Lots of people have done it for years and years.”
Killian said he wanted to thank Kelley and Whaley for their hard work as well as all past chairs that have helped shape the show into the major event it is today.
“We’ve been really fortunate with all of the chairs we’ve had for April Foolies and they’ve all made their mark on April Foolies in one way or another,” Killian said. “And it’s always been an amazing event and Debra and Michael have just raised the bar.”
Killian added that this year’s event was very successful and that he’s already looking forward to what the event can do in the years to come.
“I’m excited just for the future of the event,” Killian said. “It’s always awesome and every year we say this, but every year it’s true — it’s amazing to watch this event grow and change and flourish — and I think that everybody walked away tonight feeling very excited and very fortunate to be part of New Hope and The Gate.”