Madera’s Got Talent names fifth winner


Wendy Alexander/The Madera Tribune Abel Perez of the Madera Evening Lions Club presents Brooklynn Stringfield with a first place trophy in the Madera’s Got Talent Contest. Stringfield won first place in the k-6th grade category.

With the COVID-19 pandemic gripping the nation, including Madera, one of the biggest fundraisers for the Madera Evening Lions’ Leos Club was in danger of not happening after four years. However, organizer Ruth Nishimoto got the help of fellow Evening Lions members and her son to successfully film and produce the fifth annual Madera’s Got Talent show — virtually.

“We were not sure how it was going to turn out,” Nishimoto said. “This year with the pandemic, as a Leo advisor, I haven’t been able to do anything with the Leos except with Zoom meetings. I didn’t really think I could pursue having it.”

Despite the pandemic, Nishimoto decided to go on with the show and contacted most of the contestants that were in the show before and had 19 performers.

“I knew a lot of the parents and contestants and they look forward, year-to-year, to having it,” she said.

She got the idea from Abel and Stephanie Perez to film each of the performances and then show it on a big screen. Karla Gran stepped up and suggested they show it at the Madera Drive-In and it took off from there.

“They suggested they do the show virtual with all of the advertisements of the show going on social media,” Nishimoto said. ‘It was completely out of my comfort zone. I’m used to do everything by paper, selling tickets, getting Leos to sell tickets, doing everything. How do you do that in this day? The great part about it was almost all of the contestants said they wanted to do it. We could do it like America’s Got Talent where they send in a video. However, I was told it may not be fair because not everyone don’t have the capabilities to video. You’re dealing with all kinds of issues so that may not make it fair. It made sense to schedule everyone at half-hour increments to film their segments. It’s also really hard to film the performances. You can’t really do anything at the school district because there’s so many requirements. Fortunately, Alexis Hix was really agreeable to film at All About Dance and Gymnastics. Contestants really didn’t see each other. Tim Riché at Valley West Christian Center helped out with the singers.”

Nishimoto then enlisted her son Jared Thelander, a Mass Communications and Journalism major at Fresno State who is a cinematographer and his friend Reese Collins, who works with audio, to film and edit each of the contestants’ performances.

“Jared knew that he had to get different shots of the contestants,” Nishimoto said. “He had them do one routine first with the stationary camera. The second one, he used a camera on a shoulder rig to move around. He tried to get movement or close-up shots. For him, to do 19 contestants like that, was really grueling with the editing. It was a new experience and showed him how much went into it. Just being a perfectionist he is, had had to get everything right for the drive-in. He had complications at the drive-in, but he got the color right so the contestants looked good. That’s all he wanted happy parents and happy contestants. We got good feedback from them. Even while filming, I had parents thank me. They told me this was something normal in their life. They said when I said we were doing Madera’s Got Talent, they were so excited.”

Madera’s Got Talent was originally a fundraiser for the Madera Leos club to raise money to purchase shoes, socks and coats for children.

“We always run out of funds so we needed to do something big,” Nishimoto said. “So, that’s how Madera’s Got Talent was created. We find out that this is something for these kids. It was something for kids to look forward to perform like this. I was talking to Dino Lawson, who was a judge last year. He saw Madera’s Got Talent live and also virtual. He said it was fun both ways. Jared always asked the kids if they wanted to do it again. He wanted the contestants and parents happy. That’s what made it good for the kids. Those kids were amazing. They are such all nice kids. That’s what made it fun for Jared and Reece and have something big for them was all worth while because they got to make these people happy during a time like this.”

When the filming and the editing was done, the performances were shown on the big screen at the Madera Drive-In and contestants were thrilled to see themselves on the big screen.

“It was a whole new experience for the kids,” Nishimoto said. “To be on a big screen like that, can you imagine going to the drive-in and you’re larger than life. To see them up there, it was such a thrill for them and their families. How can you not be happy. It was such a good experience for these families. Madera’s Got Talent would not have been possible without the Gran family, owners of the Madera Theater and the Madera Drive-In for their donation of the use of their facilities.”

Along with Madera Chief of Police Lawson, Madera County Sheriff Tyson Pogue, Chief of Madera Fire, Matthew Lawson and Madera CHP lieutenant Hector Madrigal were brought in to judge the events.

“We didn’t know how we were going to do judges,” Nishimoto said. “This year, we thought with all of the things going on, let’s just salute first responders.”

Also, Angela and Gerardo Garcia donated more than 300 pairs of socks, which were collected at their foster daughter’s one-year-old birthday drive-by.

“I’m so glad did this,” Nishimoto said. “We only had two months to pull this thing off. When they came off with the idea, I didn’t think I could do. It was super cool that you had Angela and Gerardo Garcia to do a sock collection for the Leos. I know the Leos are not giving right now, I have a lot of things for them when they back to school and back out there. We have a lot of stuff to give away. That’s the nice thing is that people are still thinking about giving and still wanting to help out the Leo club. That’s awesome.”

Despite a crazy two months to film the performances, edit them and show it on the big screen, Nishimoto is happy she was able to do this for the kids,” she said. “I feel really good about this. I feel good we were able to do something for these kids,” she said.

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