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December 09, 2016
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Play on words

Photo by Ted Waddell Valerie Mansi and James Heisel exchange words in Shel Silverstein's 'One Tennis Shoe' at the Liberty Free Theatre
Photo by Ted Waddell

Original words came into play (for some) in the form of country music on Sunday, as Mr. Willy’s (what—no website? Find ‘em on Facebook!) hosted the kickoff of the “Brad Paisley Virtual Reality Food Drive” benefiting the Sullivan County Federation for the Homeless. The event, sponsored by Thunder 102.1 FM, ( and spearheaded by Paisley, featured contestants vying for a top spot in the Texaco Country Showdown, “the nations largest and longest-running talent competition” ( ).

Eyes on the prize ($100,000!), 19-year-old Monticello cowgirl Anna Rose joined duo “Lucky House” (Joe Dibiscegle and Dianne Weber), 13-year-old (just call me) Kaylah, 12-year-old Mikki Zip (from Syracuse, NY), 14-year-old Jennifer Grace and winner-take-all, Mongaup Valley’s Cathy Paty, who will move on in the competition, now one step closer to fulfilling her dream. The panel of judges—Iron Cowboy’s “Big” John Davis, Bethel Woods marketing manager Gabrielle Scott, Nashville recording artists Marcum Stewart and Andrea Villareal (“Acklen Park”) joined local celebrity Dharma the wonder-dog (and me) in the tough task of grading the performers abilities, broken down into various categories.

Paty, who serves as the V.P. of the Sullivan County Chamber of Commerce, was moved to tears and thrilled that her daughter, Lila Claire, was in the house, cheering her on. The evening was capped by a performance from duo Acklen Park (mobbed for autographs after the show) and 2011 Thunder 102 Texaco Country Showdown winner Jason Casterlin, whose career is clearly on the rise. Food pantry drop-off points are scattered throughout the county and more information on this worthy endeavor can be found by calling the Sullivan County Federation for the Homeless at 845/794-2604. Once again, the generosity of spirit in the Upper Delaware Valley leaves me at (gasp!) a loss for words. Let’s all cowboy up and participate!