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'Idol' worship grows among area seniors


Performers wow the crowd during competition at Imlay senior center



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March 05, 2008
IMLAY CITY — A quartet of celebrity judges was hard pressed to pick the winners in Friday's Senior American Idol competition at the Lamb-Steele Building.

In the end, Mayor Rodney Warner, Sheriff Ron Kalanquin, Health Dept. Director Stephanie Simmons and Bill Ruhlman of the Thumb Correctional Facility left the final decision up to the standing-room-only audience.

Once all the votes were tabulated, the top three Idol winners were: Russel Beck, 1st place; Don Berkheiser, 2nd place; and Joe Cusenza, 3rd place.

For their efforts, Beck was the recipient of a $270 gift certificate to Sunburst Tours donated by Heritage Elder Law; while Berkheiser earned a $50 gift certificate from Tietz's Restaurant and Cusenza was awarded a $50 gift certificate from The Country Smoke House.

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Russ Beck’s booming baritone voice won over his audience and judges.
Other competitors included: Diane Charbeneau, Estelle Prisby, Esther Smith, Russ Rheaume, Sharon Maloney, Jean VanDerPloeg and Bob Young.

Beck set the audience on its respective ears with rousing versions of Frank Sinatra classics, while 94-year-old Berkheiser wowed the crowd with an acappela performance of "The Old Lamplighter."

It was pianist-vocalist Cusenza's spirited rendition of Fats Domino's "Blueberry Hill" that led to a special invitation from "The Mayor."

"I'm inviting you to my next party," Warner told Cusenza.

Other notable performances included Russ Rheaume's guitar-inspired rendering of Tex Beneke's "Chattanooga Choo Choo," and Sharon Maloney's flirty tribute to the torch singers of the past.

Tracy Kanaziz, activities coordinator for the Imlay City Senior Center, said there were a few last-minute cancelations due to the weather and other engagements. But all-in-all, Kanaziz was pleased with the talent pool and the large crowd that turned out in support of the performers.

"The turnout was great on a snowy day, and everyone had a lot of fun," said Kanaziz. "The feedback has been great, and the seniors are all asking when we can do it again."

For more information about senior activities, contact Kanaziz at 724-6030.

For more photos of the event visit the photo gallery at www.tricitytimes-online.com

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