Isabella Maestas was a little nervous when she walked on stage at Colchester High School last Thursday.

But it was the 11-year-old’s third year auditioning for the talent show, and she had a new trick up her sleeve. Under the bright stage lights, to Melanie Martinez’s “Carousel,” Isabella leapt and twisted her way across the stage in a new contortionist act.

She’ll join 32 acts ranging from music to dance to magic in the town’s ninth annual Colchester’s Got Talent competition. The contest, hosted by Colchester Parks and Recreation, invites town members of all ages to compete for cash prizes up to $150 at the 36th annual Winter Carnival’s opening night on Friday, Feb. 1.

The talent show spawned from the community’s waning interest in dinner dances and a growing desire to draw adults to the youth-oriented carnival, contest organizer Mike LaPan said.

“It really brings the community together. There’s a great feeling in the theater of encouragement,” he said. “Everybody wants to see those folks up on stage succeed.”

 

National competitions like “America’s Got Talent” can seem unattainable, but Colchester’s version is welcoming and showcases local talent, LaPan said. Plus, he added, the show gets a phenomenal turnout, usually filling every seat in the theater. Due to the event’s wide success, Lake Champlain Access Television will livestream the show to a spillover location—the Colchester High School cafeteria—and online.

This year’s contest will feature local celebrity judges: Colchester School District superintendent Amy Minor, Miss Vermont Julia Crane and Local 22/44 meteorologist Torrance Gaucher.

“I try to be involved in the students’ extracurricular activities,” Minor said. The district’s pupils are the largest cohort to audition for the show.

“The more community events that we have helps to bring the town and the schools together,” she said. “[The contest is] another great example of the two entities in the town working together.”

Though Minor doesn’t have a favorite type of performance, she said it would be great to see a magic act go before the crowd.

Fresh off the stage from her audition, Isabella smiled and thanked the judges. Asked how she felt, she grinned and said, “I don’t know, a little bent and everything.” But she harbored hopes of sharing her talent with the community.

Isabella hopes to inspire others to learn the art of contortionism, she said, adding she looks forward to showcasing a skill the audience likely hasn’t seen in the competition before.

“I just hope that everybody has fun,” LaPan said. “I hope they are looking forward to it and excited to show off their talent.”

Colchester’s Got Talent will begin at 6 p.m. on February 1. Entrance is covered by a Winter Carnival bracelet which can be purchased at the parks and rec office as well as at several locations around town.