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SAL    Approximately 250 people  attended the 16th annual Black Tie and Talent Show on Jan. 8 to see $15,000 in scholarships awarded to Clinton County youth.
    The event is sponsored by the Aviston Sons of the American Legion Squadron 1239 and hosted by Hidden Lake Winery.
    The program has awarded over $163,250.00 in scholarships to Clinton County youth since its inception.
    Last year's program was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
    Event co-chairman Jim Kues spoke about the community service efforts of the county's youth and the values of shopping locally.
    He said this program’s main funding is from small businesses in Clinton County.
    SAL members Kues and co-chairman Craig Timmermann thanked everyone for attending.
    Kues thanked the judges from the Aviston American Legion down-select contest, the SAL wives for decorating the winery's Champagne Hall, and the SAL members for the food and decorating and the winery staff for their accommodations. He thanked winery owners Steve and Angela Gorazd for their donations to the program. Steve Gorazd spoke about the Josh Melton Memorial Statue at the winery and the fundraising efforts to rebuild the statue.
    SAL Commander Greg Riechman spoke about the SAL  as an organization and its scholarship program.   
    The event judges were Dr. Robert Hart Baker of Belleville, Kathy Barkau of Okawville and Connie Kuhn of Okawville, who all have backgrounds in music, theater and pageants.

    The master of ceremonies was Dr. Brian Walsh, who did a wonderful job entertaining the crowd with his wit and interaction with the contestants.
    The 2021 scholarship winners are as follows:
    • First place - Hannah Schmitz of Aviston, the $2,500 Deacon Jerry Stockmann Memorial & Tech Know Solutions Scholarship.
    She spoke about her college experience and teaching. She performed “Piano Man” by Billy Joel.
    Schmitz also received the $750 Dan and Carol Imming Scholarship and the $500 Marvin Riechman Family Scholarship for Community Service.
    • Second place - Caleigh Arentsen of Germantown, the $1,500 Randy Peek Memorial Scholarship.
    She spoke on music education and performed Claude Debussy's “Syrinx” on flute.
    Arentsen also received the $750 CTR Concrete & Builders Merit Scholarship and the $500 Mike and Eva Koch Family Scholarship for Community Service.
    •  Third place - Lucia Knapp of Breese, the $1,200 First National Bank of Carlyle Scholarship.
    She spoke on comparing books to friends and would sing and play guitar to "Little League" by Conan Gray.
     • Fourth place - Reagan Rickhoff of Albers, the $1,100 Bill and Dorothy Gooch Memorial Scholarship.
    She also won Kaskaskia College's scholarship for 12 credit hours and the $500 Hidden Lake Winery Scholarship.
    Rickhoff spoke on community Service and sang “Second-Hand White Baby Grand” by the cast of the musical TV series "Smash."
    • Fifth place - Samantha Elling of Breese, the $1,000 Art and Teresa Stephen Memorial Scholarship.
    She spoke about family and sang “Change for the Good” from "Wicked."
    Katie Doll of New Baden received the $750 Theresa Richards and Keith Wilken COUNTRY Agents Scholarship and the $600  Tot Spot Daycare Scholarship for Community Service.
    She spoke on the grieving process then sang “Not a Day Goes By” from the musical "Merrily We Roll On," accompanied by pianist Amy Page.
    Finalist Samantha Jones of Trenton was not able to attend the program.  
    The $800 Dick Kues Memorial Scholarship was awarded to the 2020 Black Tie and Talent Show winner Gwendolyn Frisse of Trenton.
    She spoke about her last two years in college and working in the nursing field. She sang “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” by Elton John.   
    Frisse said the scholarships she received as winner that year have gone toward her education: she's in Kaskaskia College's nursing program, to become a registered nurse.
    Frisse will complete the program in March, and in June she will join the Air Force Reserves, leaving for basic training in July with designs on being an aeromedical flight nurse.
    The last couple of years Frisse has been working in the COVID-19 unit of her hospital, “And that has been a very interesting learning experience for me. And as scary as it is, I am ready to go into health care.”
    It's showtime
    A prayer was said for the soldiers, after which the crowd enjoyed a meal of fried chicken, glazed pork, potatoes, green beans and salad.
    Dessert included an assortment of delicious cake pops and special decorated cookies from Mary Beth Detmer of Breese.
    The main event began at 7:15 p.m. with the Pledge of Allegiance. Following that was the introduction of contestants, who descended the ballroom stairs in Hollywood-style spotlights which highlighted their formal attire.
    Contestants passed the judges, introduced themselves on stage, gave a brief speech on a topic or event in their lives, and answered a fishbowl question.  
    Many interesting questions were fielded by Walsh, and the crowd was entertained by the comical responses.  
    While waiting for the results, Wil Rakers of Trenton, the event's winner in 2018, sang “Give Me One Reason” by Tracy Chapman, a real crowd pleaser.  
    Frisse returned to sing “What's Up” by Four Non Blondes. The crowd was ecstatic.  
    Next year's event will be held on the second Saturday in January 2023 at the winery.
    The Aviston Sons of American Legion thank all who attended this event. Without advance ticket sales this event could not be produced.  
    If you did not attend this year’s event and would like to be on the ticket mailing list, send your name, address and phone number to: Jim Kues, 15801 Russland Rd., Aviston IL 62216.  
    To donate a scholarship, call Jim Kues at (618) 973-5688 or Craig Timmermann at (618) 830-7737.