Champion Crowned

BEMUS POINT – The 2014 SE93 Chautauqua Lake Voices has a champion, and her name is Ashley Reefer.

Reefer was named winner of the competition during the competition’s sixth and final installment at the Bemus Point floating stage Monday after serious deliberation from the judging panel.

The competition finale featured its three remaining contestants, each of whom performed two songs throughout the night: one which was selected for them by the judges, and one of their own choosing. Reefer, who performed Jennifer Hudson’s “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going” and Mariah Carey’s “Hero,” said she was surprised by the outcome of the competition after the results had been read.

“It feels great (to win), and it’s really unexpected,” Reefer said. “I’m not from this area, so I’m really thankful that I was able to spend my summer here singing for everyone. Thank you for coming each week, and I hope to see you next year.”

In addition to Reefer’s performances, the finale also featured performances from the two other contestants rounding out the competition’s top three finalists.

Dylan Carlson performed Phillip Phillips’ “Gone, Gone, Gone” and Jessie J’s “Who You Are” while Victoria McIlvain performed Whitney Houston’s “And I Will Always Love You” and Josh Groban’s “You Raise Me Up.” The judging panel – consisting of Tim Edborg, Patricia Newman, Michelle Paterniti and Andrew Minton – was highly complimentary of each performer, and made it clear that its final decision to choose a winner would be a difficult task.

Monday’s finale marked the conclusion of the 11th Chautauqua Lake Voices competition, which held its auditions in June at the Jamestown Gateway Train Station and officially commenced with a dozen hopeful contestants on July 14. It was a long journey from June auditions to Monday’s final, but Reefer said it was undoubtedly worth the time she put forth in giving the competition her all.

“Dylan and Victoria deserve to win this as much as I do, but I’ve been really blessed to have this opportunity to sing this summer. So it feels great, and I’m so happy,” she said.

Also receiving recognition for the countless hours spent rehearsing the dozens of songs that were performed throughout the six-week contest was the backing band, referred to as “John Cross and the Babalu Band.” The musicians included: Steve Strickland on keyboards; Spencer Drake on bass; John Cross on saxophone, clarinet and keyboards; Jim Foti on drums and Jim Karapontso on guitar.