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Showdown highlights weekend for area

Local finalists will try to strum and croon their way into the judges hearts for a shot at two Colgate Country Showdown state final spots in a competition this weekend.

The Showdown will be two nights this year: Friday, July 24 at an outdoor stage in Sebeka behind the fire hall, and Saturday, July 25 at an outdoor stage at the Wadena VFW, said organizer Sherry Linnes of sponsor radio stations KWAD/KNSP and Superstation K-106.

The contestants are judged on marketability, vocal/instrumental ability, originality, stage presence and overall talent, Linnes said. Points are also awarded when a contestant performs an original work.

The six KWAD/KNSP Colgate Country Showdown finalists competing on Friday in Sebeka are Sierra Milbradt of Sebeka, Connie Etzler from Staples, Paul Martin from Eagle Bend, Janie Marie of Nevis, Kayla Stelzer from Menahga and Lee Compton of Brainerd.

One winner will be chosen to represent K-106 from these six local finalists at Saturday night's event in Wadena: Katie Ziegler from Staples, Devon Worley from Plymouth, Minn., Kris "Kritter" Engle from Frazee, Erica Lynch from Wadena, Gregory Michael from Miltona and Brian Tronnes from Shevlin, Minn.

• Katie Zielger comes back to the Showdown this year with more determination. She is a graduate of Staples/Motley High School in 2008, and has a large family in the Staples area, and they influence her musical stylings along with her friends. She loves playing guitar and other instruments, and is self-taught and plays by ear. Her dream is to go to Nashville to be an country music recording artist. A little know fact about Katie is that she has a twin sister named Kim.

• Devon Worley is from Plymouth, Minn., and just 11 years old but has the vocal ability of someone twice her age. Worley's favorite quote is: "If Barbie is so popular, why do you have to buy all her friends?" At the age of 7, Worley won a Disney singing contest. She attends school at the Fair Performing Arts Center, MN Opera Center and Orchestra. Her musical influences come from Martina McBride, Carrie Underwood, Reba, The Dixie Chicks, Tricia Yearwood and Miranda Lambert.

• Brian Tronnes hails from Shevlin, Minn., as a song writer, singer and performer. This is the first time he has graced the Wadena area with his crooning and brings a bluesy kind of country. He wrote his first song at the age of 12 and is influenced by Hank Williams Jr., James Brown, the Rolling Stones and Tom Jones. He goes by the saying, "One man with courage is a majority." He dreams of one day being a well known songwriter and holds true to his faith as his inspiration is Jesus.

• Erica Lynch from Wadena comes back to the stage this year with a new look and a new attitude. Originally from Iowa, she has made her home in Minnesota since moving to Wadena many years ago. She loves Wadena and has no plans of leaving. Singing and performing at a young age and she continues today. Her favorite quote to live by is "Cherish yesterday, dream tomorrow, live today!" Her inspiration comes from her daughter Alexandra and all things positive in her life. When not singing Erica loves to play softball and taking care of her many kids at her in-home licensed daycare.

• Gregory Michael is back this year and more determined than ever to get to Nashville. He is a student at NDSU working on a pharmacy degree and began singing and playing guitar when he was 18. He also loves hunting, fishing, water skiing and most any outdoor activity. His music is influenced by Travis Tritt, Blake Shelton, Garth Brooks, Waylon Jennings and Randy Travis.

• Kris "Kritter" Engle is from Frazee and didn't begin singing until his 21st birthday. Engle is a big fan of classic country music and dreams of making it big someday to bring back the old country he grew up listening to. His inspiration comes from his dad and his girlfriend Melissa Lee along with his family. When he is not singing around the area he is earning a living farming and loves hunting. He has many talents and can do them all well, when asked he says there is not much he can't do. His favorite quote is "Never trust a man who didn't drink."

• Sierra Milbradt, 18, is from Sebeka and has a huge passion for music. She began singing at the age of 5 and hasn't stopped. Her favorite saying is "You can take the girl out of the honky tonk, but you can't take the honky tonk out of the girl." She enjoys singing, dancing, acting, writing, drawing, horseback riding, hanging out with her friends and family and shopping and aspires to be a famous singer or a music teacher. She is the daughter of Avis Estabrooks and Kevin Milbradt and two siblings, Cody Milbradt and Sam Bell. Sierra has mild to moderate autism, but has not let that stop her dreams of singing and learning, she works very hard to accomplish all that she has.

• Janie Marie is from Nevis and has been singing around the area for many years. Her comfortable swagger on the stage shows a true performer. Her belief and favorite quote is "Bring it from your heart!" Musical influence comes from her mom, whom had a fabulous voice and still encouraged Janie to sing and perform, she is a perfectionist and strives to do her best. She loves to entertain and she blends some old classic country with a power tune that will have fans singing along.

• Connie Etzler, of Staples, is a new contestant this year. She sang in her first talent show at the age of 5, started playing piano at 6, guitar at 8 and the banjo at 12. Her musical influences are George Strait, Hank Williams Sr., and Patsy Cline. Connie's favorite quote is "You don't stop playing because you grow old, you grow old because you stop playing." She is the mother of four children whom she draws her inspiration from, also are her husband Chris, son-in-law and two grandchildren. She is the foundation director at Lakewood Health Systems in Staples and loves music, horses and the rodeo.

• Paul Martin returns from Eagle Bend and entertained crowds with "Holler Back" this year. His rough voice and smooth moves wins fans over. He began singing 10 years ago and is influenced in his music by Travis Tritt and Waylon Jennings. His favorite quote is "Just because someone famous makes a quote doesn't make it true, unless its Ted Nugent." His brother Ed is his inspiration along with his really cool family. In his spare time he simply loves to do guy stuff, eat, sleep, sing, work and drink.

• Kayla Stelzer from Menahga is back after a year or two off from the contest to pursue other interests and a wedding in Alaska. She started singing in high school with the National Anthem and hasn't stopped. She is currently attending MSUM and majoring in criminal justice, and will be attending Vermillion Community College this fall for one semester. Her musical influences are Garth Brooks, Carrie Underwood, Kelly Pickler and Gretchen Wilson. When she is not singing she enjoys horses, hunting, fishing, snowboarding, softball and volleyball.

• Lee Compton is back to the contest after a three-year break. He has not stopped playing in the years fans haven't seen him, but continues to improve his craft and hone his vocal skills. He is from Brainerd and married to his beautiful wife Brianna who inspires him and pushes him to do better. He loves hunting and fishing and dreams of having a good life and a happy family.