COOS BAY — Alliah Gonzalez wasn't expecting to win first place in the 2017 Bay Area Teen Idol competition final Sunday afternoon at the Egyptian Theatre, but the 14-year-old from Coos Bay sang her way to the title and a prize package valued at over $3,200 as the 16th season of Bay Area Teen Idol wrapped up.
It was Gonzalez' solid performances of "What A Feeling," "A Change is Gonna Come," and "Maybe This Time" that put her over the top. Gonzalez is a freshman at Marshfield High School and this is her second year competing in Bay Area Teen Idol. With the title, she won $1,000 cash, Southwestern Oregon Community College tuition and a recording session at Inner Sanctum Studios. She is the daughter of Eli and Lesley Gonzalez.
"I personally thought I'd get second place," Gonzalez said after the show, which was moved to the theater after rain threatened the Bay Area Fun Festival.
"It was just really surprising, then I was excited and happy," she said, adding that she expected her friend Shaymus Hanlin to win the title.
Hanlin, 16, a junior at North Bend High School, came in as runner-up with his his renditions of "New York, New York" and "Fever." He won $475 cash for his efforts. It was his third summer singing in the competition.
"He and I talked about it a lot before today and decided that we would be happy for each other, either way," Gonzalez said.
Miranda Seldon of North Bend captured third place and Christian Ringgold from Coos Bay took fourth place, with Seldon winning $275 cash and Ringgold winning $175 cash.
Gonzalez is active on Marshfield's Speech and Debate Team and dances with the Marshfield Upbeats. She also performs with the Marshfield choir and loves musicals. Since last summer, the determined young woman worked hard to improve her vocal gifts.
"I really tried to push myself in choir," she said. "And I really worked on my voice and improved myself as a performer before the season started."
To the other contestants, Gonzalez wanted to remind them that sometimes the competition can be unpredictable.
"Just keep your head up and don't get discouraged when things don't work out the way you think they are going to."
Bay Area Teen Idol is a summer-time vocal competition for teens that promotes a healthy lifestyle that is free of drugs, alcohol and tobacco. A panel of seasoned professionals judged the competition.
On Sunday, all 10 contestants were given many gift cards and certificates donated by local merchants.
This year's contestants included Hannah Callihan, 15, Coquille; Jazmine Ford, 15, Coos Bay; Caitlin Gill, 13, Myrtle Point; Alliah Gonzalez, 14, Coos Bay; Shaymus Hanlin, 16, North Bend; Ella Johnston, 18, Coos Bay; Kaydence Linville, 13, North Bend; Kamara Mill, 14, Coos Bay; Angelina Morones, 13, Bandon; Christian Ringgold, 14, Coos Bay; and Miranda Seldon, 14, North Bend.
Last year's Teen Idol winner, Rosa Gutierrez Camacho, also made guest appearances throughout this year's competition, as did other past Teen Idol winners.
The group auditioned in May, then spent a few weeks preparing under the guidance of producers Stephanie Kilmer and her daughter Krista, along with several other volunteers.
At the final performance, Kilmer told the audience how much she appreciated their support of this year's contestants.
"I call them kids, because they're my kids," she said. "I try to provide them with a life experience that they can take away and what we hope is they give you in return something of value. We are trying to recognize the contributions these guys have given since May."
Kilmer added previously that it has been a great season, with new talent from different corners of Coos County.
"I am very proud of this group of teens," Kilmer said. "They rose to every challenge they were issued. They gave their hearts and souls to the program. And, I believe they are better people for it. The friendships they made will last and they have given us, the organizers, more than they will ever know."
As for Gonzalez, she's already looking forward to next summer.
"I'm just going to focus on my choir experience and try to better myself as a performer and come back next year like Rosa did and support the Teen Idol program, because I really do believe in it," she said.