Violinist, Dancer Claim Talent Titles at 97th Annual Convention of Louisiana Farm Bureau Federation

By Chuck Cannon, Louisiana Farm Bureau Federation

     NEW ORLEANS — Young vocalists, dancers and musicians regaled attendees here at the 97th Convention of the Louisiana Farm Bureau Federation with their amazing performances, but in the end it was a 16-year old violinist and 12-year old dancer who claimed first place in the Talent Contests on June 21.

     Lily Martinez, a homeschooled junior from New Roads in Pointe Coupee Parish stood out over 13 competitors to win the Senior Talent Contest. Martinez won with an uplifting tune by composer Fritz Kreisler, “Love’s Joy.” She said she’s been playing the violin for 10 years.

     “I started when I was 6,” Martinez said. “There’s just something about the violin that I can’t explain.”

     Martinez said her parents “made” her start taking lessons at age 6, but she quickly developed a love for the instrument.

     “I guess when I was about 13, I just really wanted to play all the time,” she said. “It’s something I want to do for the rest of my life. I want to play until the day I die.”

     She said she chose “Love’s Joy” because it is a “happy” tune.

     “There’s a lot of sad songs out there now and I wanted to play something happy,” she said.

     The evening was a cap to an eventful day for Martinez, who also was second runner-up in the Talk Meet held earlier in the day.

     “I’m so excited,” she said. “There were so many talented singers and musicians. I couldn’t believe it when they called my name and said I won.”

     Josie Ruth Oliva and Lauren Nicole Gervais, a ukulele/guitar/vocal duet from Lafourche Parish who performed “Wagon Wheel” by Bob Dylan and Ketch Secor, were first runners-up in the Senior Division, and Gabrielle LeBlanc and Leiton LeBlanc, from St. Martin Parish, were second runners-up with their fiddle/guitar/vocal rendition of the Neil Young/Stephen Stills classic “Long May You Run.”

     Allie Zeringue, a middle school student from Assumption Parish, claimed the Junior Talent Contest crown. She performed a lyrical dance to “One Day I’ll Fly Away” from the movie Moulin Rouge.

     The youngster said she’s been dancing for nine years. She said she chose the Moulin Rouge number because it was something everyone could relate to.

     “I felt like you could take whatever you wanted out of it,” Zeringue said.

     When she learned she had won, Zeringue said she started shaking.

     “I was so excited,” she said. “There were other very talented performers and I was lucky to win.”

     As for the future, Zeringue said she wants to continue dancing.

     “I hope to make a living as a dancer, either commercially or as a performer,” she said. “Winning this contest gives me a lot of confidence.”

     First runner-up in the Junior Division was Audrey Soulier from St. Charles Parish, who sang Francesca Battlstelli’s “The Breakup Song.” Second runner-up went to Rachel Henry, who played the piano and sang Hillsong UNITED’s “Oceans.”

     Louisiana Farm Bureau President Ronnie Anderson said both groups of performers were outstanding.

     “It’s amazing how talented these kids are,” Anderson said. “How do you judge between a singer, a dancer and a person who plays a musical instrument?”

     Anderson said that at the parish-level contests, the winners usually stand out, but at the state level, the competition is intense.

     “All of our contestants were tremendous,” he said. “We really have a lot of talent in the Farm Bureau.”

     A by-product of the competition is the friendships that are often formed, Anderson said.

     “They meet others who are talented when they are young, and over the years, they meet up again here to make friendships that often last into adulthood,” he said. “This contest is really a big part of our convention.”

     For more information, visit  

     Founded in 1922, the Louisiana Farm Bureau Federation is the state’s largest general farm organization representing more than 137,000 member families.

lfbf19Monica Velasquez