BENNINGTON — They sang, played, and danced their hearts out for a chance at Bennington County glory.
Fifteen Vermonters put their musical talents on full display Friday night at the annual Bennington County’s Got Talent competition for the shot at winning $1,000 and the accolades of a grateful audience.
The annual competition took place at the newly reopened Monument Arts and Cultural Center. The theater, formerly the Laumeister Art Center, had been closed several years before Friday’s contest but will be open full-throttle for the community.
The crowd at the theater, along with a streaming audience on Catamount TV and Facebook Live, cheered, sang along, and participated in the ballot voting, resulting in one of the 15 acts — a singer named Gretchen Sausville — walking away with the $1,000 grand prize.
Sausville, a 23-year-old Bennington native, was the crowd favorite, performing in her fourth try at the contest. She started performing as a young ballerina and sang in a choir, including numerous performances as part of the Mount Anthony Union High School drama department.
She is now a preschool teacher who is studying early childhood education at Community College of Vermont. From the moment she started belting out her bluesy rendition of “Black Horse and the Cherry Tree,” made famous by KT Tunstall, both the judges and the audience were hooked, both in person and online.
“This is so awesome,” Sausville said after her name was called. “It’s almost unbelievable. After doing this for so long and being so sick, I just, you know, said to myself before I sang that I’d try again another year. I’m glad I came.”
Sausville had a nasty upper respiratory infection leading up to the contest, which she battled through to participate.
“Two days before. I was, like, so sick. I couldn’t even breathe. My mom was like, ‘You’re gonna have to cancel.’ I was like, ‘No, I’m alright.’ And I figured it out.”
Acts ranged from performers ages 13 to 58 years old, from Kobi Addington, a young Dorset keyboardist who did a unique version of Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata, to singers such as Keri Winnie of Bennington, Veronica Jarvis of Pownal, and Morgan Loomis, who sang her own original tune.
Mira Fowler, a modern dancer from Bennington, performed to the Jimmy Evans Band, playing old-school rock and roll.
This year’s competition was just the second time that an online audience could join the judges and audience in voting for their favorites. Judges from the community and the professional performing arts participated by voting, critiquing, and supporting the acts with kind words and encouragement.
Sponsors included the Bennington Banner and Manchester Journal, Catamount Access TV, Coggins Auto Group, M&T Bank, CAT-TV, and Monument Arts Center. Abuela’s also donated flowers and funding.
Selected participants throughout Bennington County competed for the $1,000 prize and bragging rights.
“I really think it’s an awesome event,” Sausville said. “It’s so cool to meet people of all different ages from the community and have them all onstage all at once, young people and older people; it’s just really awesome to get the community together like that. And being on stage with so many other talented people is awesome, too.”
When asked if there was anything she’ll be earmarking her winnings for, Sausville didn’t hesitate.
“I’m hoping to get a tattoo,” she said.
The Banner has an online photography gallery of the event, including all participants. To view the gallery and order copies, please visit; https://mng-nenivt.smugmug.com/Benningtons-Got-Talent-2023.