Sedalian John Ezell has a year to prepare for a show that may attract 8,000 to 10,000 people.
Ezell, 21, of Sedalia, secured first place in the 2007 State Fair Idol contest on Sunday, besting 13 competitors from around the state with his bluesy rendition of Tracy Chapman’s “Give Me One Reason.” The competitors, chosen by sponsoring radio stations and a panel of fair officials, represented the winners or individual contests held each night during the fair. As the winner, Ezell took home a trophy, will soon record a professional demo CD, and will perform as the opening act for the first Thursday night concert at the 2008 fair.
Fellow Sedalian, Cory Smith, 27, was the first runner-up, and Bobby Garner, 18, of Smithton, was the second runner-up.
“I have done a lot of these competitions,” Ezell said after the show. “But I had a really good feeling about this. I knew there was a lot of competition, a lot of good singers — I’m just really excited.”
Ezell was nearly eliminated from the competition, coming in second to Smith during a semi-final round at the fair. The show’s coordinator and host, Thom Fuller, said that judges at each round had the discretion to send on a second-place finisher if “they felt like the talent was there.”
“I just picked a song that was a little more snappy, a little jazzier. I knew there were a lot of country fans and the judges might lean that way, but if you want to stand out and be remembered at something like this you have to pick a song that gets people going — gets them moving and into it,” Ezell said.
Ezell said he began singing about four years ago at the urging of his mother, Sandra Morton.
“My mom kept telling me she thought I could do it, but I wasn’t sure. She just kept pushing me — she’s a big reason why I am here today,” Ezell said.
He said he was ready for the large crowd likely to greet him at next year’s fair.
“I can’t wait. It will be amazing,” Ezell said.
Smith, who entertained the crowd with his version of Garth Brooks’ “Somewhere Other Than The Night,” dedicated his show to his late friend, Eric James Binney, who died in a car accident earlier this year. He said he has been singing his whole life, and felt comfortable on the stage through the elimination rounds.
“This has been a great experience. One of the biggest things in my life,” Smith said.
Garner, now attending cosmetology school in Warrensburg, echoed Smith’s feelings, calling the chance to compete “a real dream come true.”
“I didn’t take first place, but there is always next year,” Garner said.
Now in its second year, both organizer Fuller, and his partner, Stacy Purvis, said the show had attracted sizable crowds each night and the pair expected the show to return next year.
“This has just gotten better. Last year we had a great show, don’t get me wrong, but this year it just blew away all our expectations,” Fuller said.