Arts and Entertainment

Eye on the prize: Rhiana Franklin wins Colgate Country Showdown in Moxee

Persistence has paid off for Rhiana Franklin.

Rhiana, an incoming junior at Friday Harbor High School, won the Colgate Country Showdown hosted by radio station 92.9 The Bull, Saturday at the Moxee Hop Fest in Moxee.

Her win comes six weeks after she placed second in the KMPS 94.1 FM Colgate Country Showdown at Point Defiance Park in Tacoma.

She advances to the Colgate Country Showdown state final Sept. 5 at the Kittitas County Fair. State winners advance to the regional final. Regional winners advance to the national showdown.

This year’s national showdown title comes with $100,000.

“I’m really excited,” she said. “I’m really excited about the possibilities that could happen. I hoped I would get this far.”

The song that won her the 92.9 showdown title was “Cover Story,” an original composition. (She placed second with her original, “All I Know,” June 25).

Her father, Ken Franklin, said of the latest showdown, “It was a really tough competition. There were 23 contestants there; the one man she went up against won it all last year. She did extremely well. The radio people were all over her music. We were really happy about that.”

Her mother, Suzanne Franklin, called the showdown “a talent competition and an opportunity to be seen.” And indeed it is.

In 28 years, the Country Showdown has become a reliable source of rising country music stars. Over the years, stars such as Garth Brooks, Sara Evans and Brad Paisley have competed in the Country Showdown. At the 1983 national final, Martina McBride and Neal McCoy competed against one another, only to lose to The Jim Arnold Band. In 1985, Sweethearts Of The Rodeo won the national final before becoming one of country music’s hottest duos.

Rhiana was eighth of 23 performers to take the stage July 7. At Point Defiance Park, she was the second performer.

“The stage was small and the crowd was really cool,” Rhiana said after that performance. “The song I wrote is kind of personal, and I got to connect with people.”

She didn’t worry about the style of songs that would be performed by other singers. “The lyrics and the song are what it’s all about,” she said.

Rhiana is an emerging local artist. She performed at the Freedom Fair in Tacoma on July 4, 2009. She performed at the Friday Harbor Summer Arts Fair on July 17, and in the Music at the Port concert series.

Beginning in mid-July, she began performing Friday and Saturday nights through the summer at Friday Harbor House. She’ll perform at the San Juan County Fair on Aug. 19 at 6 p.m.

“I just think she’s very talented,” musician/videographer Cecil DeMeerleer said in an earlier interview. “She’s got a great singing voice, she writes great songs, she’s a solid guitar player. She’s got amazing pitch — she’s right on all the time. She’s very easy to work with, very fun to work with. She’s just a great kid.”

DeMeerleer remembers the audience response to Rhiana’s performance at the Freedom Fair. “She got to sign some autographs,” he said. “She’s going to be a star.”

Rhiana is the lone singer in an aviation family — grandfather Roy founded Friday Harbor Airport, dad Ken owns Aeronautical Services, and brother Cole has his helicopter pilot’s license.

“My mom plays the piano,” Rhiana said. “She says I sang a lot when I was little.”

Rhiana said she began to think about a singing career after performing in the fifth-grade talent show.

She appreciates all of the support she’s received. “I have very supportive people on the island who have some great connections.”

Among her favorite local musicians: Her guitar teacher Bob Leytze, folk singer Debbie Nash Strasser, Tom Doenges, and DeMeerleer.

Her big-name favorites: Kerry Brothers, Mat Kearney, Taylor Swift, and Carrie Underwood.

“Who doesn’t like Carrie Underwood?” Rhiana said.

— Journal reporter Jane K. Fox contributed to this report.

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