'Every day is sweeter'

Karen Betts takes crown as Rising Star of Tennessee

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By Sherri Gardner Howell
Blount Today

The sweet sounds of talent filled the room at First United Methodist Church. In the end, through some strong competition, Karen Betts powered her renditions of "Anyway" and "Sweeter" into first place in the Rising Star of Tennessee talent contest Friday night.

The event was a fund raiser for Patch Ministries and was the brainchild of Patch director Jeff Hutchison. Hutchison said the event was a great success, both in funds raised for a "first effort" and in helping spread the word about Patch Ministries.

Patch Ministries was formed three years ago in Maryville to help eliminate unsafe and unsanitary housing in Blount County, and "to love people" through their difficult situations. In three years, the organization has helped more than 65 families, doing everything from replacing door knobs to building ramps.

The "American Idol" type format of Rising Star of Tennessee allowed for 25 percent of the vote totals to come from three judges who offered comments and suggestions to the contestants at both the preliminary round and finals, and 75 percent of the total from audience votes. To help keep it fair, everyone had to vote for three contestants.

The five finalists who advanced from 14 in the preliminaries were Betts, Katie McCroskey, Clara Musick and Molly Rochelson, who are all students at Maryville Middle School; and Martrel Siler, who will be in high school at Austin East next year. Their young voices, emphasized the judges more than once, were rich in talent and quality.

Betts, a registered dental assistant at Maryville Dental Care and a full-time college student in pre-dental, offered not only a beautiful voice, but a polished stage presence that had the audience clapping and singing along. Her favorite type music is contemporary Christian and her goal in entering the competition was "to use the (God-given) talent to reach the hearts of His people."

Betts took home a prize package worth more than $2,500, including an opportunity to schedule a performance at Grounded Coffee and More, recording studio time and head shots for publicity.

Judges for the final round were Charlie Jackson, Kate Border and Jim Butterworth.

Hutchison hopes to continue the contest next year. The next event on the schedule for Patch is a Biscuit and Gravy Breakfast at Texas Roadhouse, 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. Saturday, June 30. Tickets, $5, are available by calling Patch at 865-681-0583.

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