Winner chosen in first Hey Nonny Songwriting Contest

After a rollicking final round of performances Tuesday night, Arlington Heights venue Hey Nonny crowned Sean Heffernan and his song, "Pioneer Park," as the winner of its first songwriting contest. Heffernan took home a check for $1,000, a trophy, and the opportunity to perform at Hey Nonny at a future date.

Hey Nonny's first songwriting contest was focused on songs that in some way were about the Northwest suburbs. That gave songwriters with a local connection an edge, and served to make Tuesday night's final round a community celebration.

"We wanted to use this to discover and develop the interesting culture we have in the Northwest suburbs," said Hey Nonny co-owner Chip Brooks. "Our area is becoming much more than a standard swath of suburbia. The contest songs helped to shine a light on what's special and unique in our area."

Heffernan's winning song did all that, focusing on a wild array of his youthful experiences in and around Arlington Heights' Pioneer Park.

"My parents came in from Holland, Michigan, for this final show," said Heffernan. "They really got a kick out of being here for my performance - and especially seeing me win."

The $400 second prize went to longtime Arlington Heights resident Roger Bain for his "The Arlington Heights Song," which extolled the virtues of a town where "the mayor wears tights" - a reference to former Mayor Arlene Mulder, not current Mayor Thomas Hayes. The $300 third prize went to local high school student Mallory Leno for her song, "Bus Crush."

The final round of the contest was judged by three professional songwriter/performers: noted poet, author, and songwriter Jenny Bienemann, Delmark Records President Julia Miller, and Rockford' finest, Miles Nielsen of Miles Nielsen & The Rusted Hearts.

"Our judges took this incredibly seriously and were troubled because they'd heard way more than three great songs," said Brooks. "They each had their own preferences, but in the end, they agreed that Sean Heffernan's song was the winner."

The judges praised Heffernan's song for its sophisticated musical structure and its "specific but universal" lyrics.

The songwriting contest struck a chord with the community; contestants entered over 60 songs and each of the contest shows was a sellout.

"The final result exceeded our wildest expectations," said Brooks. "It ended up being more about community and fun than just a contest."

Brooks thanked local attorney Ron Wittmeyer of the Law Office of R.F. Wittmeyer for helping make the inaugural event possible.

"Ron's a genuine music lover," said Brooks. "He contributed prize money, trophies, certificates and advertising. His ideas and energy were critical to making this event so successful."

Brooks indicated that his team is looking at making the contest a regular event in the Hey Nonny calendar.

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