After an absence from the lineup of entertainment for several years, the Palo Alto County Fair is very excited to bring the Bill Riley Talent Search program back to the county fair. The Talent Search will take to the stage in the Open Air Pavilion on Friday, July 20th at 6:00 p.m. with free admission.
The Bill Riley State Fair Talent Search dates back to 1946 when Iowa Falls native Bill Riley emceed variety shows at the Iowa State Fair, sponsored by KRNT radio. In 1957, Riley promoted the concept of showcasing Iowa's talented young people at the State Fair. It took two years before the first Iowa State Fair Talent Search was held in August of 1959.
To develop the program, Riley began traveling statewide to host talent shows to find performers. The State Fair shows became a huge hit with fairgoers, and a tradition was born.
Riley would retire from the State Fair Talent Search in 1996, and had the home of the State Fair show, the Plaza Stage, re-named in his honor. In 2006, Riley celebrated attending his 60th State Fair, and passed away later that year.
The State Fair Talent Search continues on today, with over 100 qualifying shows, such as the July 20 show at the Palo Alto County Fair, being held across the state. Competitors are divided into categories for Sprouts, aged two to 12, and Seniors, aged 13-21. Local program winners qualify to compete in seven preliminary shows at the State Fair, with six Sprout champions being selected and a senior champion being selected on the final weekend of the State Fair. Bill Riley, Jr., continues the family association with the program by hosting the State Fair shows each year.
At the local State Fair Talent Search competition, prizes will be awarded in each division - $50 for First Place, $30 for second Place and $20 for third Place.
A person's age for the Iowa State Fair competition is determined at the time they win a local show. A 12 year old (or 21 year old) could turn 13 (or 22) by State Fair and still be eligible in the Sprout (or Senior) division, as they met age requirements at the time of qualification.
Sprout acts will be permitted to have one performer who is 13 years old only. If a performer in a Sprout act turns 13 before the State Fair, thus making the Sprout act have two or more 13 year olds, that act will automatically become a Senior act. Any performer who is 14 years or older will not be allowed to perform in a Sprout act.
Acts are required to keep the performance at three minutes or less. Acts running longer than three minutes are subject to possible disqualification or point deduction. This will be at the judge's discretion. Keep the act at three minutes please. Set-up time is not included. Please try to limit set-up time to one minute.
No more than five persons are allowed in an act. Piano accompanist is NOT included in an act and may be any age. No more than three accompanists permitted per act. Drums, amps, etc. are discouraged due to the one-minute set-up time. No combos, rock bands or similar musical groups permitted.
Acts are asked to not dance onto or off the stage. After introductions, you may take any position you wish to begin your performance.
Vocalists are strongly encouraged to practice and perform with the assistance of a vocal coach and/or a live accompanist. We understand that live accompanists are expensive, and sometimes very difficult to obtain for some performers. We do allow recorded accompaniment. The judges' preference is a single instrument. Multiple tracks, although permitted, are not suggested. This is not a karaoke contest. Any prerecorded track with backing vocals is not allowed, and the act will be disqualified.
Contestants may only appear once in any given show. This applies to qualifying shows as well as the competition at the Iowa State Fair. They may not perform "solo" and then return in the same show in a duet or trio. Contestants are allowed to perform in different acts in different shows, but they may only qualify for the State Fair Show with one act.
Professionals are NOT permitted to compete. This includes Union musicians and anyone whose principle source of income is from their talent. Compensation for performing at weddings, etc. does not constitute principle source of income.
For youth interested in competing, send the following information to:
or mail to Palo Alto County Fair, 4664 380th St, Emmetsburg IA 50536:
Phone number, including contact number for day of show
Type of Talent (vocal, piano, jazz dance, etc)
Multiple acts need on member to act as a contact person with information going through them.
Additional information of the act need only name, birth date, age and town.
For more information, contact: Devona Perkins