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"John Deere Dream"

July 25, 2008 - Phyllis Sigal
Zak Zatezalo of Glen Dale entered Wheeling Island Idol to win the tractor — the second-place prize. (Too bad he didn't get to sing "John Deere Green.") They were hoping for a "strong second," said his wife, Jessica, who noted that her husband, an attorney, really doesn't have aspirations to be a professional singer.

Lori Misitis, who just loves to sing, won the second-place tractor and $1,500. She was a bit concerned how to get it home to Carnegie, Pa.

But, it was Carrie Lutz of Dillonvale who took home the big prize, $3,000 and a recording package with Jamie Peck Productions. At the young age of 23 with three small children and lots of bills to pay, she was especially happy about her prize. A sore throat for the past four weeks sure didn't seem to hurt her chances. It was a well-deserved win, for sure.

The house was packed at Wheeling Island Hotel-Casino-Racetrack, as fans filled the showroom to hear the five finalists, Zak, Lori and Carrie, as well as Wheeling's Leroy Cunningham and Pittsburgh's Carmen Miller. These five had made it to Thursday's finals from a crowd of 300. The competition began June 12. All five had a great voices and were great entertainers.

I felt as if I were at the real "American Idol," as fans held signs ... "Leroy Rocks," "We Love Leroy" and "Forget Obama — We Want Leroy." Then there was the "Zak Attack" crew, about 30 strong, with their black and silver T-shirts.

Mike "Ryan Seacrest" Anthony was a great emcee, keeping the evening going. The judges got their shot at each of the contestants: Susan "Paula" Hogan, Bruce "Simon" Wheeler, and radio personalities John Blackmore and Jim Conner, the collective "Randy" of the night with their music expertise. The judges were kind and complimentary, and any criticism was truly meant to be helpful.

While the numbers were being tallied, the audience was treated to a special performance by Joe Zelek.

The five contestants and the songs they sang (which had been chosen from a hat) were:

First place: Carrie Lutz — "Big Girls Don't Cry" by Fergie and "Pocketful of Sunshine" by Natasha Bedingfield;

Second place: Lori Misitis — "Love Song" by Sara Bareilles and "Bleeding Love" by Leona Lewis;

Third place: Leroy Cunningham, "Beautiful Girl" by Sean Kingston and "I'm In Love With A Girl" by Gavin Degraw;

Fourth place: Zak Zatezalo, "LoveStone" by Justin Timberlake and "Apologize" by One Republic (he sounded just like the radio on this one!);

Fifth place: Carmen Miller, "Tattoo" by Jordin Sparks and "No One" by Alicia Keys.

I had Leroy and Carmen switched in my rankings, however. Carmen did a great job, but the band sort of screwed up at the beginning of "Tattoo," which unfortunately threw her off.

During the evening, Anthony announced that Wheeling Idol will be back in the spring of 2009.

So get your voices ready — all you singers out there have another chance to make your dreams come true (and maybe to win a tractor.)


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Blog Photos

The Wheeling Island Idol top 5 finalists, from left : Carmen Miller, Pittsburgh; Zak Zatezalo, Glen Dale; Carrie Lutz, Dillonvale; Leroy Cunningham, Wheeling; and Lori Misitis, Carnegie, Pa.