On March 24, 2018 an enthusiastic crowd at Lenoir Rhyne University’s P.E. Monroe auditorium greeted contestants competing in the Rotary Club of Hickory’s ninth annual Rotarian Idol fundraiser for local educational initiatives. Auditions in February narrowed the field of contestants to 20 finalists competing for $5,000 in total prize money. Saturday night’s finalists were: Mary Elisabeth Ballard, Mason Burr, Serena Cain, Skylar Calloway, Taylor Edwards, Kayla Harper, Mandi Johnson, Lucas Kelly, Sara King, Autumn Kohnle, Emily Lafone, Ketjuan Lafone, Stephanie McClosky, James Austin Medlin, Shaunna Musacchio, Shaun Pearson, Jairo Pereira, Sara Ramseur, Katherine Reese and Kendra Setzer
Three judges, Nate Howell, Michael Kirby and LaKeisha Ross, were faced with the difficult task of selecting three prize winners from the twenty outstanding contestants who performed. While the judges deliberated, the crowd was entertained by the winner of 2017 Rotarian Idol, Hickory native and 2018 American Idol sensation, Johnny White (left).
Deliberations complete; the prize winners were announced and presented checks by Rotarian Idol Co-Chairs Sandi Fotheringham and Lynn Loehr. First prize of $2,500 was awarded to Sara King. The second place check for $1500 went to Stevi McClosky and the third place prize of $500 was presented to Kendra Setzer. Taylor Edwards also received another check for $500 as the winner of the “Audience Favorite” vote.
The real winner again was education. This year’s contest is expected to raise around $70,000 bringing the total raised for 9 years of Rotarian Idol competitions to over half a million dollars. Proceeds raised go toward scholarships for area students, Hickory City Schools Teacher of the Year awards, and other local educational initiatives in Catawba County, as well as Rotary International humanitarian efforts. Event proceeds also support the Catawba County Partnership for Children’s Imagination Library program, which was created by Dolly Parton and provides children who live in Catawba County one free book in the mail each month until their 5th birthday. Through 2017 the Hickory Rotary Club has contributed $162,000 to Imagination Library making the purchase of 77,885 books possible. Imagination Library Currently serves about 5,000 children per month.
The Rotary Club of Hickory would again like to acknowledge and thank this year’s title sponsor Lenoir-Rhyne University. Other major sponsors include Catawba Valley Medical Center, Exodus Homes, Mike Johnson’s Hickory Toyota, Catawba Valley Community College, Adventive Graphics and Café Rule.
Hal Row, local radio personality, served as master of ceremonies.
Bob Huffman of Bob Huffman Photography documented the event with photos.
The Rotary Club of Hickory was founded in 1921 by Watt Shuford. The club has a long history of giving back to the community through its primary service avenue of education. For more information about the Hickory Rotary Club, visit www.hickoryrotary.org.