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Mix-up gives singer unexpected prize

Men whooped, respectfully doffing their cowboy hats to the cowpoke in the Stetson on the stage.

Women blew kisses and batted their eyelashes at him, begging for more.

Brandon Ummel’s rendition of Tim McGraw’s “Down on the Farm” just brought the house down at the Special Events tent during the first-ever “A-Moo-Ican Idol” contest at the Nevada County Fair.



“I had a lot of fun, and the crowd got into it. If I wasn’t going to win, I thought I wasn’t that far from the top,” he said.

His prescient observation proved correct.




Judges initially gave the $100 top prize to Amy Gargiulo, 28, a former Nevada Union High School student and Miss Nevada County. In the frenzy of the first-ever event, judges realized that Gargiulo, a classically trained vocalist who performed “I Will Always Love You” lived in El Dorado Hills, in nearby El Dorado County.

In the end, Gargiulo accepted a $100 prize. Ummel, 18, whose mother, Kim, and a few friends helped cheer him to victory, collected his cash and a trip to the Gold Country Fairgrounds for a chance to win even more next month.

“I thought they were pulling my leg at first,” said Ummel, who was collared back to the administration office after the mix-up was discovered. “I was kind of in hysterics, because I didn’t expect this to happen at all.”

Ummel, who recently graduated from Bear River High School, takes music seriously. He sang tenor for the Bear River choir and is a largely self-taught piano, drum, bass and guitar player who enjoys the Dave Matthews Band and Christian singer David Crowder.

“It might sound kind of cocky, but (music) just comes naturally. Nobody’s ever taught me how to play any instrument.”

Ummel said he’ll perform anything that gets a crowd juiced.

“It all depends on them. Once I grab the mike, it’s all fun from there.”

Ummel, who attends Calvary Bible Church, said he’d like to use his vocal ability to lead traveling “worship teams” of singers in the future.

The contest drew more than a dozen contestants, and, despite the glitch, is likely to return next year, said Nevada County Fair CEO Ed Scofield.

“It was a first-time contest, and we just didn’t catch (the discrepancy),” he said. As this contest evolves, so will the screening process, Scofield said, noting that many of the entries at the fair are cemented by July.

Scofield said the singing contest may take the place of the Miss Nevada County Fair contest, which was scrapped this year when only two contestants applied.

Though the fair has had karaoke for many years, “I kind of see this as the next step up,” he said.

For the sake of full disclosure, it should be noted that David Mirhadi also competed for A-moo-ican Idol. His diary of the experience was featured in Friday’s The Union and is available on http://www.theunion.com on the Web.


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