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Arts Center Crowns Six Winners At 'Darien’s Got Talent'

The winners from left are: in the adult category, 1st prize, Zach Heyde, 2nd prize, Tom Giles, 3rd prize, Riley Thrush, and in the children's category, 1st prize, Taylor Felt, 2nd prize, Lauren Blake, and 3rd prize, Ella Bates.
The winners from left are: in the adult category, 1st prize, Zach Heyde, 2nd prize, Tom Giles, 3rd prize, Riley Thrush, and in the children's category, 1st prize, Taylor Felt, 2nd prize, Lauren Blake, and 3rd prize, Ella Bates. Photo Credit: contributed

DARIEN, Conn. —  In an unprecedented showcase of talent, 20 finalists from Darien and neighboring towns gave it their all onstage, in the Darien Arts Center’s June 25th fundraiser, "Darien’s Got Talent."

Competing acts from Darien, Westport, Norwalk, Stamford, New Canaan and Greenwich included singers, dancers, and musicians that awed both the audience of 500 at Darien High School and the panel of judges, making the selection of winners a difficult one.

Accomplished entertainment judges included Columbia Records/Sony Music Senior Vice President John Doelp; producer of "Kinky Boots," Jane Bergere; Broadway writer and director Dan Goggin ("Nunsense"); former professional New York City Ballet dancer Ashlee Knapp Stewart; and renowned jazz musician Joel A. Martin.

After much deliberation, six winners were chosen from the adult and children’s categories and were given their awards by the DAC’s Co-President Pam Heckel.

Darien resident Zach Heyde was awarded the first place prize in the adult category for his flawless and delightfully entertaining piano rendition of “Inspector Gadget.”

Tom Giles from Cos Cob, another pianist, took second prize in the adult category for his original composition “Swan Song,” and Riley Thrush, from Westport, placed third for her soulful vocal performance of “New York State of Mind.”

Taylor Felt nailed the top prize in the children’s category, with a vocal and piano performance of her mashup of “Alive” and Middle,” while Irish step dancer.

Lauren Blake took second prize with her dazzling performance to “Can’t Stop the Feeling.”

The poignant vocal performance of “On My Own” by Ella Bates captured third place for the young singer. All winners in the children’s category are from Darien.

Taylor Felt received a second award, the DAC’s People Choice Award, for receiving the most online votes and raising the most in the online portion of the fundraiser.

Seasoned director Carole Claps orchestrated the evening’s performances, with the help of Chris Coogan as musical director and BT McNicholl as Master of Ceremonies.

During the judges deliberations, a slideshow of entries from the DAC’s smartphone photo contest, Pic Darien, was screened and Darien First Selectman Jayme Stevenson engaged the audience with her own vocal talent, singing, “What A Wonderful World.”

DAC Co-President Dana Fead and Executive Director Amy Allen thanked sponsors, producers and the crowd for their support.

A total 150 guests, including sponsors, winners and judges attended the exclusive post show party, Darien’s Got Taste, enjoying outstanding cuisine, entertainment by pianist Bob Rissolo, and celebrating with winners.

Donors to Darien’s Got Taste included Cesco’s Trattoria, Amanda Smith Caterers, Bodega Taco Bar, Carolyn's Absolutely Fabulous Events, Chocolate Works, Darien Butcher Shop, Fjord Fisheries, Four Forks, Michael Joseph's Catering, Palmer’s, Rowayton Pizza, Atria, Whole Foods, Panera, Trader Joe's, and Crunch Fitness.

Baywater Properties, Dana Fead, Realtor, EastCoast Irrigation, the Eenkema van Dijk family, Goodnow Investment Group, Darien Rowayton Bank and Andrew Stefanou Salon and Spa sponsored the fundraiser, which supports the DAC’s efforts in providing unique opportunities for all ages in dance, visual arts, music and theatre.

For more information about the Darien Arts Center, which is located at 2 Renshaw Road, behind Town Hall, visit darienarts.org or call 203-655-8683.

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