Suburban Chicago's Got Talent has lived up to its name over the past two years, showcasing a range of acts from singers to comedians to a teenage yo-yo artist.
And today, the summerlong competition returns -- with changes that include a new stage home and a new prize package aimed at taking those talents to the next level.
First, there's a new venue and co-sponsor joining the Daily Herald and the Arlington Heights Chamber of Commerce for the competition: The Prairie Center for the Arts in Schaumburg.
"The venue is perfect for Suburban Chicago's Got Talent and it allows us to expand and grow the competition," said Eileen Brown, assistant vice president and director of strategic marketing and innovation for the Daily Herald. "We've added on more days for auditions to make it more convenient for everyone."
Auditions run June 5 to 8. The first step for participants is to check out the rules and then sign up at dailyherald.com/events.
All sorts of acts are welcome -- as long as they're safe, family-friendly and meet other criteria spelled out in the rules.
In addition to hosting auditions, the Prairie Center for the Arts will be the venue for preliminary rounds of competition taking place for the Top 20 at 6:30 p.m. Sunday, June 22, the Top 15 at 7 p.m. Sunday, July 13, and the Top 10 at 7 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 3.
As with previous years of SCGT, the ultimate winner and Fan Favorite -- selected by rounds of online voting at dailyherald.com -- will be announced at the Taste of Arlington Heights on Saturday, Aug. 9. Top contestants will also perform at Schaumburg's Septemberfest on Aug. 30.
Winning the contest is just the beginning, however, thanks to a new grand prize this year: A "STARter Kit" package that includes a concert performance at the Arcada Theatre in St. Charles as an opening act for a major headliner (to be determined), a professional concert-style photo shoot, a promotional music video (drawn from live SCGT competition footage) and professional talent mentoring.
"That prize package would really give the winners the tools to turn their show into something that could actually be a career," said Palatine native Gabriela Francesca, a singer and songwriter who won the 2013 edition of SCGT and is currently pursuing a music degree at Berklee College of Music in Boston. "I think that's a very smart move for the competition."
As previous winners, Francesca and the beatboxing duo of Shawn Kurian and Sanu John, known as iLLest Vocals, won the chance to audition for producers of NBC's "America's Got Talent" in one of its audition cities. Francesca auditioned earlier this year in Providence, Rhode Island, and says she is still waiting to hear from show producers.
The SCGT Fan Favorite receives a Funjet Vacation for two.
Also new this year are two judges: Beth Waller, the cultural arts supervisor for Schaumburg, and John Flamini, the chairman of the Village of Schaumburg Cultural Commission.
"I am looking forward to it because I know there is some great talent out there," said John Flamini.
Waller and Flamini will be joined by returning judge and Daily Herald staff writer Barbara Vitello, plus a rotating guest judge for each round of competition.
"There are so many talented people living in the suburbs and this is a great opportunity to showcase them," said Brown of SCGT. "Working with the Arlington Heights Chamber and the Prairie Center for the Arts allows us to offer these artists the ability to perform in front of large audiences and to start to make a name for themselves. It's a great partnership for us all."