By Bob Balgemann


MACHESNEY PARK – Do you think America’s got talent? Well, don’t sell Machesney Park short when it comes to singing and dancing.

A talent show was added to the second annual Machesney Park Family Festival, held Saturday. And judging from the level of applause, the 11 entries sang and danced their way into the hearts of a decent-sized crowd that braved light rain that fell mid-afternoon.

The panel of four judges decided the last would be first.

Eleven-year-old Tanner Speck, second youngest among the contestants, wowed the judges and crowd with his dancing tribute, “Smooth Criminal,” to the late Michael Jackson.

Singer T.J. Ono, 28, came in second while the only comedian in the group, 38-year-old Marcus Lara, was third. “Thanks,” Lara said after his name was announced. “Now I can afford to eat.”

Other competitors, all between 9 and 17 years of age, were dancer Elenita “El” Romero; a dance-piano duet consisting of Malaya Berkman and Cameron Bottom; and singers Kaylynn Bolin, Isabella Hillary, Cassidy Mentzel, Luke Crowe, Andrew Ashley and Emily Ross.

Machesney Park Mayor Jerry Bolin was the emcee for the competition and on more than one occasion, he offered praise for the performers.

“I would hate to be one of the judges for this,” he said. “There’s a lot of talent here; it’s awesome.”

And the voting was close, with first and second place separated by less than one point.

A job well done

Harlem Township Assessor Mark Sorrentino is a community-minded kind of person and usually can be seen at events of this kind in the Parks area.

‘Great event, great music,” he said. “Kids are having a good time. I compliment the mayor and his wife.”

And of the fact no alcoholic beverages were allowed, he said, ‘You don’t need alcohol to have a good time.”

Harlem Community Center provided children’s activities and the space it occupied usually was busy. Youngsters shot baskets, tossed Bags, bowled and had their faces painted throughout the day.

Musical groups performed from 1 p.m., when the festival opened in front of the Machesney Towne Center, until 9:30 p.m., when an event-ending fireworks display was put on across the street.

There were some flea market booths, many occupied by crafters. One of them had a variety of lamps made out of liquor and wine bottles. One of them paid tribute to former Chicago Bears tight end and head coach Mike Ditka, who led the 1985 team to its only Super Bowl. The wine had been made in California in 2011.

Other, plain bottles were filled with marbles, different kinds of buttons, empty bullet casings and a variety of bottle caps.

Creator Trevor Meiborg said he saw something similar on the Internet and just duplicated it. He sells the lamps on Etsy, a marketplace for crafters.

In the coming weeks organizers of the festival, led by Lynda Bolin, will revisit the festival and decide if a third one is in the offing for next summer. Festival


Bob Balgemann photo

Members of the Christian band, Epiphany, offer a song during the second Machesney Park Family Festival held Saturday (July 11) at Machesney Towne Center off North Second Street. See more photos inside.

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