TERRE HAUTE —
A 17-year-old from Casey, Ill., won “The Voice of the Valley” Tuesday night, singing and shaking his hips and legs to an Elvis Presley song, then wooing the grandstand audience at the Wabash Valley Fairgrounds with a country tune.
Jake William Hoult, who is entering his senior year at Casey-Westfield Junior-Senior High School, has been performing since he was a young boy. When not mowing yards, he performs shows on the weekend at festivals, parties and events throughout the Wabash Valley.
Hoult won $500 and two tickets to The Voice Tour, which features past stars and finalists from this season’s “The Voice” on NBC. Hoult said he became influenced by Elvis’ music at a very young age.
“I have lived with my grandparents my whole life, and our thing was going to Branson, Missouri. I saw an Elvis impersonator there when I was really little, and I thought, ‘Man, I really want to do that,’” he said.
“So when I was little I got an Elvis suit and entered a bunch of karaoke contests, and it has just evolved from there,” he said.
Hoult, with short dark hair, performed his favorite Elvis tune — the one about blue suede shoes — for his opening song.
Ten contestants sang for the event, with Hoult being one of four finalists. Judges were to have three finalists, but asked for a fourth. The finalists were Hoult; Braelyn Wence, 16, of Sullivan; Chloe Elizabeth Hayes, 14, and Charles Michael Natt Jr., 14, both of Terre Haute.
On his second song, Hoult sang “Country Girl (Shake it For Me),” a song by Luke Bryan.
“I just [have loved] country music all my life too. It’s Branson, which is country,” he said.
Hoult said he has been performing since about the first grade. “I just used to sing in the living room with my CD player and do shows for my family,” he said. “Now I do shows all around.”
Hoult said he will use his $500 contest prize to help pay for recording of a CD in Nashville at the end of this month. Hoult said he plans to take his friend, Garret Biggs, also of Casey, to see The Voice Tour.
Jennifer Cook, president of the Wabash Valley Fair Association and who served as emcee of the event, said the Vigo County Fair is a family-friendly event. “This fairgrounds is meant to support the community and the youth of the Wabash Valley.
“We have a lot of local talent, and what a special treat to be able to bring them up [on stage] and be able to showcase them during the fair, and to have competitors that are 14 years old on the stage singing. I think, is just awesome,” Cook said.
Reporter Howard Greninger can be reached at 812-231-4204 or howard.greninger@trib