SHOWING THE WAY: George and Noriko will be on stage as part of  Kids in the Big Top .
SHOWING THE WAY: George and Noriko will be on stage as part of Kids in the Big Top . Toshihiko Ijuin

Age no barrier: Young performers to hit Big Top Tent

WHEN Paula Hovey decided to create a performance platform for young people in the Whitsundays, little did she know it would lead them to the Airlie Beach Festival of Music main stage, alongside nationally renowned acts.

The Reef Gateway Hotel functions manager had previously run children's music programs and approached festival founder Gavin Butlin with her idea for fostering junior musical talent.

The result was Young Whitsunday's Got Talent, a monthly competition held from May to October, culminating in performances by the winners this Saturday at the Airlie Beach Festival of Music main tent.

William Kelly, 16, and Nicole Copo, 17, will perform at the festival's only under-18s event, Kids in the Big Top, alongside Australia's Got Talent stars George and Noriko, and Byron Bay's Juzzie Smith.

Young Whitsunday's Got Talent judge Annie Freeman said the winners were thoroughly deserving of this opportunity.

"William has already won a competition to perform on Broadway in January and Nicole just gave me goose bumps - it was like listening to someone who had been on stage forever,” she said.

"These kids are young professionals and it just blows me away to think they're going to be in the main tent.”

Ms Hovey said the response to Young Whitsunday's Got Talent had been huge, with standing room only for the finals at the Reef Gateway Hotel.

"We were left wondering when the talent was going to run out - there's just that many kids out there who can really sing,” she said.

Festival co-ordinator Ellie Hanlon said collectively the competition and Kids in the Big Top event were opening the festival up to more families.

"Lots of people ask if the festival is family friendly and of course the tent is 18-plus due to licensing, so this is a way we can involve the younger generation and give them a taste of the main stage,” she said.

Festival founder Gavin Butlin said he was proud to be forging these connections.

"Who would have thought the Airlie Beach Festival of Music would give our young people the chance to do something like this,” he said.

"It's huge encouragement for them and proof of where entering these competitions can get you.”

Saturday's Kids in the Big Top event also features Viper Syndicate, Electric Alien and the winners of the Young Mackay's Got Talent competition.

Doors open at 9am and tickets can be bought on site, costing $15 per person, $50 for a family of four, or $60 for a family of five. For adults with a festival armband accompanied by a child, entry is free, and entry for the child is only $10.

Other finalists from Young Whitsunday's Got Talent will play the Fish Jam youth stage at Hog's Breath Airlie Beach over the festival weekend.


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