Wess Cooke performs a Gordon Lightfoot song on his Willie Nelson autographed acoustic guitar Saturday evening at the Gendron Franco Center in Lewiston. Cooke was one of 10 performers at the eighth annual Maine’s Got Talent fundraiser. Sun Journal photo by Matthew Daigle

LEWISTON — Nearly all of the seats at the Dolard and Priscilla Gendron Franco Center were filled Saturday evening as the eighth annual Maine’s Got Talent fundraiser got underway.

Molly McGill, who was introduced at the start of the show as “the host with an energy unsurpassed,” told the audience that more people applied for this year’s show than any of the previous years, and that there was “some serious variety in store.”

Each performer is judged on a scale of 1 to 10 by three local celebrity judges, and by audience participation and feedback.

All three celebrity judges from the previous year returned for Saturday evening’s show: local musician and past Maine’s Got Talent performer Thomas Doucette, Celeste from the WBLM Morning Show and Joe Philippon of the Lewiston Police Department.

McGill urged the audience to boo the judges if they disagreed with their scores.

Ten acts performed for the chance to take home cash prizes: $750 for first place, $500 for second and $250 for third.

First place ended up going to 16-year-old Lydia Gilman, a junior at Erskine Academy in South China, who performed a rendition of “If I Ain’t Got You” by Alicia Keys.

Jaycen Daigle of Eliot won the second-place prize.

Tessa Walker of Portland won the third-place prize by performing Aretha Franklin’s “(You Make Me Feel Like A) Natural Woman,” which got a “10” from both Philippon and Celeste, and an “8” from Doucette.

“I looked at my wife in the audience while you were singing, and I knew it had to be a 10,” Phillipon told Walker after her performance.

For the first time in the fundraiser’s life span, a rapper performed onstage at the Franco Center.

Portland resident Nathan Lapointe, rapping under the name “Unique Unknown,” performed an original song called “Vice Versa,” which resulted in a score of 26 from the judges.

After his performance, Lapointe told McGill that rapping helped him express emotions that he couldn’t get out otherwise.

“Some people need therapy,” Lapointe said. “I used hip-hop.”

In the final performance before the intermission, Wess Cooke performed a Gordon Lightfoot song that received a long round of applause from the audience.

When Celeste and Doucette gave Cook a 7 and an 8 respectively, the audience erupted into a chorus of boos.

McGill, with a grin, told the audience, “I’m giving you guys a 10!”

Other performers included Jaycen Daigle, Lydia Gilman, Kayla Hopkins and Brando Morin, In the Wind, Jess Moore, Paul Rainone and Ryan Thayer.

Maine’s Got Talent is the annual fundraising event for the Lewiston-based nonprofit Sandcastle Clinical & Educational Services, which provides a full range of clinical and educational services to individuals of all ages and abilities, and the L/A Hearing Center.

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