The Thrill of Performing – Meet the Winners of Cove’s Got Talent 2020

Cove’s Got Excitement

Performances on the World’s Stage…

Concerts, festivals, and film premieres have been canceled, rescheduled, and modified. Highly anticipated tours of artists like Elton John and The Rolling Stones have been pushed back. Even the Summer Olympics were canceled for the first time since World War II. Though for us here at Cove,  the most anticipated event of the year was the Cove’s Got Talent Grand Finale — the final showcase for the talented residents who performed in talent shows across our communities. Since they couldn’t compete in person for the final prize, we called up the 7 named finalists for a special interview to get to know them better.

Point Sebago Resort – Casco, ME

Lyla Harris – The 11-Year-Old Soloist
Lyla Harris holds her winning certificate at the Point Sebago Talent Show.

The scene is set every summer at Point Sebago Resort: play all day until the sun goes down over the lake then enjoy the parties with summer friends in the evenings. I got the opportunity to speak with the young talent show winner, Lyla Harris, and her mother, Lynn Harris. Lyla is a spunky young girl with a bright, energetic spirit and a passion for performing. The Harris family (consisting of six daughters) have been spending their summers at Point Sebago for over 22 years and at 11 years old, Lyla is no stranger to the Point Sebago performance stage. She has performed in Little Mermaid, Pinocchio, Jungle Book, Peter Pan, and the Staff Show. “It’s really fun because I love the concentration aspect and how I can have control of the dances and moves I create. I feel so free when I am dancing or singing. The fact that I can work with people and make meaningful relationships and have inside jokes makes it more memorable for me.” Lyla swoons. I ask her if she feels nervous at any point during the talent shows and she seems to be immune to that feeling. In two of the Talent Shows, she chose songs with incredibly difficult range and emotional lifts. Her family is her foundation; she practices harmonies with her sister for fun, her parents request songs from “The Greatest Showman” movie and she flows into song with ease. Point Sebago Resort is an extended home for the Harris Family, who have created unforgettable moments with the same families and the same friends year after year. It is like no time goes by at all. “We have these summer moments and they act as a time capsule holding the songs, movies, and pop culture references of that particular year — and every time we hear the song, “Shallow” (from A Star is Born) it will forever take us back to that summer when Lyla won,” Lynn Harris tells us with great pride in her eyes. The crowd goes wild watching this talented young lady pour her soul out on the stage – job well done, Lyla!

Sun Valley – Tarpon Springs, FL

The Mother-Daughter Duo
These ladies really know how to put on a show.

Sun Valley Winners – Barbara Tillett and Melissa Hutton, Mother and Daughter duo (respectively). I called Barbara and she answered from her Tarpon Springs abode- she has a jovial voice that instantly uplifted my spirit. She said I could call her BJ, as everyone else does. Melissa supports her mother no matter what, they both live in the community and everyone knows their dynamic in the neighborhood. As soon as BJ called Melissa to ask if she would please do an act with her – she immediately said yes, without even knowing what was being asked of her. As a funny joke, they decided to dress up as one another and put a skit together to show off their multi-faceted talents. BJ started singing mostly gospel music in church and expanded her gift to nursing homes as she saw a big need for the uplifting power of music for these individuals. BJ’s favorite part of performing is feeling the warm familial welcome feeling of singing in front of her neighbors and friends. BJ performed the song “Ain’t No Angel” and everyone loved the comical spin on the fact that she was playing the “daughter” coming home late from a night of excitement. The best part was getting down off the stage and seeing everyone’s look of awe and enjoyment. Many complimented her on her singing voice – having had no idea she had that beautiful singing voice hidden away!

Rolling Greens Village – Ocala, FL

The Inspired Song Writer
A beautiful tribute for a meaningful story.

Rolling Greens Village Winner – Stanley Margeson performed an original song and played guitar while singing. Stan’s story of how he came up with the idea to write the original song he named, “Faces on The Mirror” is an admirable tribute. He describes himself as a ‘basement rockstar’, one who is maybe an intermediate player at best but to those at the community listening to him perform, real emotions were evoked. So how did Stan come up with this beautiful song? He was sitting in his room in Ocala and started to look over at his bedroom dresser where he has some special photos pinned to the sides. One photo of a friend lost to breast cancer at a young age and another photo of his sister, who had also passed, holding tight to Stan’s young daughters. He was struck with the inspiration to write the words about theses faces he sees in the mirror taken away physically – but in our hearts always. It was a beautiful experience and he was so happy to actually have his family in town at Rolling Greens Village to cheer him on at the talent show. His favorite part of performing is the unity it brings and the appreciation he feels when coming back to music.

Estero Bay Village – Estero, FL

Snowbirds Turned to Songbirds
Stepping up to the mic was one of the hardest parts of Ruth’s act!

Estero Bay Winner – Ruth Krol performing as a duo with a snowbird resident, Joanne (unfortunately at the time of interview already returned to her home in Massachusetts). As soon as Ruth picked up the phone, I knew she had a wonderful story to tell and a beautiful way of telling it. She had been singing all her life and found a great love for the stage while in college. She realized she had a great talent for acting and traveled all over the U.S. in different plays until joining the Navy. She assured me here that she still sang all the while. When Ruth relocated to Estero Bay Village she found unity in this 55+ community. She met others who loved to sing and perform, and it became an outlet – especially a great way to combat memory loss. When it was time to get on stage with Joanne accompanying on piano at the Talent Show she was feeling nervous about remembering her lines, resorting to writing the first line of the song on her palm! But when it was her time to shine, that is exactly what she did. When asked what her secret was to performing “The Lady is a Tramp” – she said she didn’t look directly into the eyes of those in the audience – instead of looking directly above their heads, feeling the jazzy beat of the piano and before she knew it, there was a roar of applause from the audience. Her favorite part of performing is getting together and having a wonderful time with friends.

Camelot Lakes Village – Sarasota, FL

The Musical Man
One of the many performances of Kenny Weiland of Camelot Lakes Village.

Camelot Lakes Winner – Kenny Weiland is a phenomenal songwriter who has been playing & performing music for the better part of 35 years. He was drafted into the Vietnam War in the sixties and was blessed to be able to return to the states and settle into a post-war livelihood. What did he want to do with this newfound freedom? Play music – and lots of it! In the early seventies, he traveled around and performed coffee houses and café gigs. But eventually felt a burnout and knew it was time to make some real money. He put the guitar away and found a“real job”. But that wouldn’t keep him from continuing to write songs over his lifetime and record 60 songs on 6 different albums. His favorite part of performing is collaborating with others, having organic jam sessions in his community, and feeling the energy of the crowd reverberating back to the stage. Roger Griffin is the other part of his duo at the Cove’s Got Talent Show and he has his own impressive musical background. He received a drum kit at the age of nine and picked up playing the keyboard at 16 – this was the ultimate ‘key’ to being a part of various bands throughout his life. After graduating with a degree in finance, he went to work but still made time for playing gigs whenever possible. He’s pretty much played every genre you could think of, “I did it all, played at weddings, blues clubs, and classic rock venues”. Naturally, when Roger met Kenny 3 years ago at Camelot Lakes Village, they were fast friends and ready to perform for their community. His favorite part about performing? Playing to an audience that is really listening and enjoying the present moment. This duo performed a classic, “Every Breath You Take” by The Police.

The Waters – Melbourne Beach, FL

The Cruising Magic Man
The Waters show was one of the last big gatherings for the community.

The Waters Winner – Rick Curry, magician extraordinaire. Hailing from a huge family, Rick had to find some quick tricks to ensure he could gain the attention of others with ease and light-hearted fun. He found that as long as you could perfect at least one neat trick, you’ll always be able to kick up a conversation and make friends at a social gathering. As he got older, he found that this trick is even more useful. Rick and his wife loved to take cruises. Over the years he’s been on about 30 cruises and always seemed to gravitate towards the sleight-of-hand magicians. He told me of course a magician never reveals the secret to his trick, unless… you have a great trick to trade. So, he built up his arsenal of magic tricks and jokes to keep on hand – until eventually he even got offered a job – personally from the ship’s Captain – as an onboard magician for Carnival Cruise Lines! Throughout all these years of performing magic for people, Rick admits he has never accepted payment for it and this was no exception. The trick that did it was pretty spectacular: when the captain chose a card (any card) from Rick’s deck – somehow that very card ended up in an un-opened bottle of wine all the way on the other side of the showroom behind the bar. This is the type of “close-up” magic he performed for the lucky residents at The Waters, and they were all in awe of his ability to incite wonder. When asked what his favorite part of performing is, he says without pause, “It’s the people’s reaction, that mouth agape, head-scratching moment – it’s everything”.

River Vista RV Village – Ruskin, FL

The Enchanted Guitarist
Behold, Ron Jackson, River Vista’s winner!

River Vista RV Village Winner – Ron Jackson singing and playing his guitar for those in the community. Ron got his start in music at 10 years old when his father decided he needed someone to play drums in his ‘garage band’. He was given a drum kit and started playing country and western music with his dad’s band at their home in Colorado. He loved to explore different genres and then different instruments and still carries the love of music with him today. He now splits his time between his home in St. Louis, MO, and Ruskin, FL. His favorite part of performing his seeing the reaction of those in the audience, “If they enjoy it that means I am enjoying it”. For the Cove’s Got Talent Show he played an oldie that everyone could sing along and dance to entitled, “Your Mama Don’t Dance”.

Curtain Call on Cove’s Got Talent

The Meadows, Meadowlea Village, Holiday RV Village, and Camelot East Village were not able to hold their preliminary talent show before lockdown began. You can be sure they are using their time in quarantine to practice their unique and special acts! They’ll definitely be ready for next year’s events and ready to show off. We value the camaraderie and integral moments that create the culture here at Cove.  So, thank you to all our guests, residents, family, and friends for your ability to uplift us through anything that comes our way. We can’t wait to see you at a future show.