LEWISTON — “Maine’s Got Talent” returned to the stage Saturday night at the Franco Center after a nearly four-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Eight performers, some from auditions prior to the pandemic, brought musical talent from around the state for an eclectic mix of genres and styles that drew nearly 400 audience members.

Special guest performer and “American Idol” contestant Sierra Harris of Gray rounded out the night with a solo performance.

Mahogany Walton won first place and $750 for a soulful cover of a portion of the Beatles’ “Abbey Road Medley” — “Golden Slumbers,” “Carry That Weight” and “You Never Give Me Your Money.”

After the winners were announced, Walton was brought back onto the stage for an encore and performed “I’m a Soldier in the Army of the Lord,” a gospel classic.

“It’s very natural to get up on the stage, but my nerves are still crazy,” Walton said after her encore. “It felt amazing to get out there and to be a part of something. I was very nervous all day, and then I got over it about five minutes before and I said, ‘I’m just going to do it and it’s going to be amazing.'”


Kitty and JT perform Saturday night at the “Maine’s Got Talent” show at the Franco Center in Lewiston. Kitty Coolidge is on vocals and JT Greene on acoustic guitar. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

Judges Joe Philippon, Mike LaCarrubba and Tom Doucette gave Walton a unanimous score of 10/10, with kudos for a performance that connected with them on many levels.

“Look at me,” Doucette said. “I’ve still got tears in my eyes.”

Walton, who attends Christ Temple, the Church of God in Christ, said her singing began in the church’s choir. Her song choice was inspired both by The Fab Four and by Jennifer Hudson’s rendition of the song, which popularized it with a whole new generation.

As part of her first place prize, Walton is to perform July 15 at the Lewiston Auburn RiverFest.

The night kicked off with 1950s and 1960s sock hop band, Jessi and the Cruisers, which played hits “Tutti Frutti,” by Little Richard, and the rock ‘n’ roll classic “Shake, Rattle and Roll.”

Performers Unique Unknown, Emily & the Zealous, and Anna Van each performed original songs, and Holly McCauley played “Just a Closer Walk With Thee,” a traditional gospel song and jazz standard that has been performed and recorded by many artists, including Patsy Cline and Willie Nelson.


Anna Van performs Saturday night at the “Maine’s Got Talent” show at the Franco Center in Lewiston, as judges Joe Philippon, Mike LaCarrubba and Tom Doucette watch and listen. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

Ashley Gurney won second place and $500 for her cover of Leonard Cohen’s classic “Hallelujah,” and duo Kitty and JT took third place and $250 for their performance of a song by Maine band Ghost of Paul Revere.

The evening was capped by Harris, who performed the Adele hit “Rise Up,” and took the opportunity while on stage to salute all of the performers and Sandcastle Clinical & Educational Services at 72 Strawberry Ave. in Lewiston.

“Maine’s Got Talent” is the main fundraiser for the local nonprofit that has provided much-needed mental health services, speech pathology, audiology and occupational therapy for children and families of all abilities. Sandcastle also has an accredited preschool and prekindergarten program.

Like Walton and other performers, Emily & the Zealous band members are from Lewiston. Front person Emily Torres said it was an honor to play for “Maine’s Got Talent” and represent the state’s music, alongside some of Maine’s best performers.

“Sandcastle is such a great cause,” Torres said, “and I’d love to sing for the kids every day, if I could. It just felt like we were part of something bigger, and that’s what music’s about.”

Stephanie Gelinas, the executive director of Sandcastle, said the support “means the world” to programming and supporting local children and families.

“We’re a mission-driven agency and the work we’re providing for families and children are supported by the generosity of sponsors,” Gelinas said. “People are advertising in our program, buying tickets and all of that. So, this really does mean the world to us … and to our heroes: The families that we work with.”

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