Making Waves

During the summertime, hundreds gather at the Bemus Point Floating Stage on Monday evenings to enjoy performances by competitors from across Chautauqua County. But this year, the event will go by a new name.

Since 2004, local performers have competed for thousands of dollars in prizes in the Chautauqua Lake Idol vocal competition, which is now known as “Chautauqua Lake Voices.” The opening night is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Monday. The show will continue each following Monday: July 15, 22, 29 and Aug. 5, with a finale on Aug.19. A 10th anniversary celebration concert is also in the works, but details will be released at a later date.

According to Andrew Hill, director of operations and programming for Media One Group, producer and host of the show, it is an exciting time for those involved in hosting the show as it is the 10th anniversary.

“This being our 10th year it is exciting to know that we have pulled off such an entertaining and popular event for a decade,” said Hill. “I do not know them by name, but I see a lot of the same faces looking back at the stage each week and each year. The community really adopted this program as a part of the summer routine, and it is exciting to see them come back each year – even if their favorites didn’t win from before. It is exciting to see that SE93 Chautauqua Lake Voices is one of the most anticipated events of the year for a lot of people.”

New to this year’s program is that former competitors were offered the chance to audition again and participate in the show. Teal Weatherly, one of this year’s competitors, was a runner-up in Chautauqua Lake Idol’s first year of competition. According to Hill, although she did not win, Weatherly’s performance was quite memorable.

“Until this day I can only remember a few performances that had the audience completely silent during a performance, and she had one of those performances 10 years ago on her pregnancy due date, which was during the finale,” said Hill. ” Teal has been eager to return to the competition for years, and this year she became eligible – so we welcome her back.

“Other return singers include Mike Bidney, whose high energy and fun personality graced the stage a few years ago,” continued Hill. “Julie Haight has one of the most powerful voices in the competition’s 10 year history. If she gained a little more confidence since her last appearance she’s going to be in good shape this year. Elizabeth Lucas also returns from a few years ago. She has a wonderful voice and fun personality. If she picks the right song to perform I think she will do fine.”

A full list of competitors this year includes: Allison Beach, an 18-year-old from Randolph; Mike Bidney, a 28-year-old from Jamestown; Bill Brunacini, a 50-year-old from Jamestown; Dylan Carlson, a 19-year-old from Dunkirk; Becca Ehrlich, a 29-year-old who lives in Bemus Point and is originally from Waterford; Jamie Haight, a 39-year-old from Youngsville; Julie Haight, a 27-year-old who is originally from Erie and currently lives in Jamestown; Hannah Kellom, a 20-year-old from Jamestown; Elizabeth Lucas, a 20-year-old from Jamestown; Victoria McIlvain, an 18-year-old from Jamestown; Jennie Melquist, a 20-year-old college student; Michael Nugent, a 19-year-old from Lancaster; Sara Ross, a 30-year-old from Brocton; Shelby Saylor, an 18-year-old from Corry; Shelby Seidler, a 21-year-old originally from Hollywood, Fla., who currently works on Lake Erie for the Coast Guard; Maria Sena, a 19-year-old from Ashville; Nicole Tenpas, an 18-year-old from Ashville; Teal Weatherley, a 30-year-old from Jamestown; and Emily Windoft, a 19-year-old from Lakewood.

Judging this year’s performances are Tim Edborg, Patricia Newman, Drew Minton and Michelle Paterniti.

“The singers really impressed the judges during the audition process this year,” said Hill. “They all have the hands down ability to sing. But it will be exciting to see how they blossom into an entertainer and do the things they may not have known they had the ability to do when given the opportunity. To see the transformation of their confidence grow week to week is really great to see. To see them take the raw singing talent they have and apply it to the venue and make a memorable performance is always exciting to see firsthand.”

Also new to this year’s competition is the way in which themes are incorporated into the performances. According to Hill, during the first two weeks the competitors will feature songs that air on SE93. The third week, July 22, will feature a Billy Joel night, followed by a Bon Jovi and Madonna combo night on July 29 and on Aug. 12, five singers will perform two songs each, one boy band themed and the other will feature a pink song in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness. In the final show, competitors will once again sing anything they would like, as well as perform a song chosen by the judges.

The audience also has the opportunity to participate in the show by bringing a cellphone to vote by text message on which singer they felt had the “coolest performance.” The winner will kick off the next show with an encore performance.

Past Chautauqua Lake Voices winners include: Susan Waite, Marla Harris, Lauren Ceccini, Ben Blood, Billy Thomas, Shawn Wilder, Marc Nupp, Samantha DeJeus and Heather Pawlak. For more information visit