Tom Tom singers bring best to 85th annual Yoakum festival

Elena Watts By Elena Watts

June 1, 2013 at 1:01 a.m.

YOAKUM - Sixteen contestants competing in the third annual Tom Tom Talent Roundup fidgeted in two rows of folding chairs under the pavilion in Yoakum's City Park on Saturday.

They awaited their turn to belt out the tune of their choice for the enthusiastic spectators and the three judges at the 85th annual Tom Tom Festival.

Kajsa Price, a 15-year-old native of Yoakum who now lives in Victoria, returned home with the top $300 prize. With bright blue eyes, ebony skin and hair pulled back in a single braid, she danced across the stage singing soulful songs by Alicia Keyes and Whitney Houston. Her renditions of "Falling" and "Greatest Love of All" raised more than a few "whews" and worshipping arms in the crowd.

"I was surprised. I was speechless," Price said about her first-place win. "I didn't think I'd get first. I thought I might get second or third because there was a lot of talent. It was a shocker, but it felt great."

The Victoria East High School student began singing in the sixth grade, but this was her first competition. She prepared for the event by singing at home every day.

Members of Price's family were also speechless.

"Some of my family didn't know that I had such a big voice," Price said. "My mom was crying, and my dad couldn't be there, so we called him, and he was very excited."

A shopping spree using her winnings might be in the future, Price said.

Three judges evaluated the contestants based on criteria including voice, pitch, phrasing, stage presence and overall entertainment. They could sing a capella to music generated by their own instruments or to backup tracks without the words.

Contestants ranged in age from 8-year-olds to adults and brought not only their talent but also various experiences to the stage such as attending school, teaching, ranching and practicing respiratory therapy. They vied for one of five places that paid a total of $1,000 in cash prizes.

Finalists made the cut from the first round of performances that included rock 'n' roll, rhythm and blues, Christian and modern and traditional country music.

Tiffany Chandler, 26, of Cuero, won second place. Her parents began dressing her up to sing around town for fun when she was 5. At 10, she took the stage with popular regional country musician Bobby Allen Jones. This was her second singing competition.

The respiratory therapist with blue eyes and sandy blond hair rocked the stage to the modern country sound of The Band Perry in the first round.

Margie Blank, Chandler's grandmother, also from Cuero, read about the competition and coaxed her granddaughter into entering.

"The things I do for my grandma," Chandler said. "I can never tell her no."

Jake Jacobs, an auctioneer from Yoakum, worked the crowd as emcee for the competition, which the Chamber of Commerce coordinated and Yoakum National Bank sponsored.

Outside the pavilion, young boys bounced around spraying silly string while girls blew bubbles. Food vendors peddled kettle corn, turkey legs, fried shrimp and piggy puffs while a carnival sprung into action across the culvert.

Inflatables of all kinds filled an area - innertube-like trampolines throwing festival-goers attached to bungee cords high into the air, a tame mechanical bull spinning and throwing children inside an air-filled tub and a giant-sized green baby pool filled with water, on which floated bubbles inhabited by more children.



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