UNION, NJ — They came with acts from original songs to dance routines to a ukulele, from ages 6 to 63.
The sounds of cheering and endless applause echoed throughout Union High School with Jinky Marie Abalos finally prevailing in the sixth annual Union’s Got Talent competition.
“I wasn’t even thinking of winning, I just wanted to showcase what I got,” Abalos, 34, told the LocalSource after her win Oct. 6. “There’s so many talented people that performed tonight that it’s difficult to process that I have actually won.”
The nearly two-hour competition showcased local talent of all ages with 16 finalists. Abalos, who sang “Two Less Lonely People” by the soft rock band Air Supply, said her performance was dedicated to her mother.
“She passed away about two months ago and I miss her every day,” she said. “This was all for her.”
“Union’s got talent, I got talent!” each of the finalists excitedly said during their introduction videos. And although Abalos has only lived in Union for two years, she believes that statement to be true.
“This is one of the reasons I love living in Union,” she mentioned. “Everyone is so nice and we really do have talent.”
Abalos wasn’t the only winner though. The Young Talent Award was won by Shiloh Whittaker Pickett for her dance performance to “No Place Like Home”; Kimberly Moreira earned the People’s Choice Award for her vocal performance of “Fix You,” and second place was awarded to Alexa Masaoy for her vocal and ukulele performance of “I Can’t Help Falling in Love.”
“This is the youngest collection of finalists ever for this competition,” emcee Meridoc “Doc” Burkhardt told the audience. “With that being said, I’m sure most of you wouldn’t be able to come up here and do what they have done. This is a very special night for everyone.”
Union’s Got Talent is a fundraising event for the Douglas Michael Krueger Scholarship Fund. Krueger was a UHS graduate who was involved in a fatal accident in December 2004.
The nonprofit organization awards scholarship money to UHS graduating seniors who have excelled in the arts. They also award a yearly Rising Star Scholarship at the Papermill Playhouse, in Millburn, in Krueger’s name.
“Even if I didn’t get a call back from the original auditions, I was still going to come and support,” Abalos said. “This is such a wonderful cause.”
Burkhardt told the audience that his first theatrical experience was at UHS, on the very stage where the competition was taking place, more than 30 years ago.
“One of my favorites parts of getting to come back here is that it’s a safe place for me,” Burkhardt said. “Tonight is all about creating a safe place for everyone involved. It’s about making connections and creating bonds.”
A panel of five judges selected the winners, except for the People’s Choice Award, which was selected by the audience during two intermissions.
“Everybody brought their absolute A-game tonight,” said judge Lisa Cooney during an intermission.
“It’s important to support the arts and to support students pursuing careers in the arts,” Burkhardt said to end the show.
Union’s Got Talent is produced by The Union High School Performing Arts Company.