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Ryan Johnson, Published March 23 2013

Video: Wahpeton senior named 2013 Fargo Star winner

FARGO - With a hint of country twang and impressive pipes, 18-year-old Addie Onchuck belted her way to victory during the 2013 Fargo Star competition Saturday night.

The Wahpeton senior had tough competition at The Venue at The Hub, with the other nine finalists vying for the votes of the hundreds of attendees who would choose the winner of The Forum’s seventh annual singing competition.

But Onchuck came out on top – just three votes ahead of the runner-up – with her take on Lauren Alaina’s song “Like My Mother Does.” She said she likes all genres of music, from rock and pop to rap, but she stuck with her preferred country to take home the honors Saturday.

“I wanted something country, and I wanted to show off my range,” she said. “I found this song and it goes up high enough and it just shows off my range.”

Emcee Kerstin Kealy warned the crowd before the performance that Onchuck seemed to have plenty of support on hand for the contest.

“Addie has signs and a fan club,” she said. “Watch out, folks.”

The good showing of friends and family may have helped her at the ballot box, but judge and Forum Variety writer John Lamb told her it was her talent that earned his approval.

“When you were introduced and your fan base over here just erupted, I thought forget about overpowering the band, she’s going to have to sing over her fans,” he said. “But you totally silenced the crowd. You’ve got a great, great voice, and it was a great, great show.”

Judge Tracy Briggs said the technical difficulty of the song showed Onchuck had “a lot of maturity” beyond her young age.

“I think what struck me is just what a big song that was and as you sang it, I was really impressed,” said Briggs, digital content development director at Forum Communications Co. “I would think it would be easy to run out of breath with it because there’s so much belting with it.”

2012 Fargo Star winner Taylor Wall said the song showcased Onchuck’s range, and judge and WDAY radio personality Christopher Gabriel agreed that her performance was impressive.

“What I really liked was you have this big, huge, belting voice, but you have such incredible control,” he said. “No need to sell it bouncing around the stage; you just let your voice sail the song along, and I thought that was great.”

The Fargo Star competition was Onchuck’s first time performing with a band – all 10 finalists sang live with backing band Post Traumatic Funk Syndrome. But she said it was an “awesome” experience, and she’ll perform again with the horn band during a summer concert at the Bluestem Center for the Arts.

Besides the upcoming gig, Onchuck also will receive a 60-inch TV and surround sound system and a recording session at Video Studio Arts for her win.

Second-place honors went to 27-year-old Stephanie Palanuk, who also made it to the finals last year. Gabriel said the West Fargo resident gave an “awesome” performance of Thelma Houston’s “I’ve Got the Music in Me,” and the judge used a comparison to his “American Idol” judging counterpart to break it down.

“If John Lamb is Simon Cowell, that makes me Randy, and I’d be like, ‘Girl, that was stupid. That was just, that was ridiculous,’ ” he said.

Taylor Hought received third-place honors for her take on 1980s classic “The Warrior” by Scandal, a song Briggs admitted she’s been “singing into my hairbrush since 1985” – but not as well as the 18-year-old from Foxhome, Minn., who had plenty of stage presence.

“I don’t think that you can learn that,” Briggs said. “I think that you’re just born with sort of an innate confidence about you.”

Onchuck said she comes from a musical family, and she plans to pursue music therapy at the University of North Dakota next year.

She admitted she was “super nervous” before the performance. But she said she had no regrets on taking the chance, and said those other would-be divas and rock stars shouldn’t hesitate to enter the contest next year.

“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime chance,” she said. “You’re never going to get to do it again if you don’t do it now, so I say go for it.”

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Readers can reach Forum reporter Ryan Johnson at (701) 241-5587