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July 12, 2016

Performers from across New York State Will Sing the National Anthem at the 2016 Great New York State Fair

12 Performers Win the Fair’s Annual ‘Star Spangled Competition’

The winners of this year’s competition to sing “The Star Spangled Banner” at the 2016 Great New York State Fair come from regions across the State and include an Army reservist, a mother and daughter team, and all 100 members of a community chorus.  Each winner will sing the anthem on one of the 12 days of the Fair, Acting Fair Director Troy Waffner announced today.

A panel of judges narrowed video entries submitted through the Fair’s Facebook page down to 20 finalists.  The public then voted for their 12 favorite performers.  Voting ended on Independence Day. The winners, their hometowns and scheduled dates of performance, listed beginning with the top vote-getter, are:

  • Liverpool Community Chorus, Liverpool, Aug. 29
  • Rebecca Branchau-Besaw, Ogdensburg, Aug. 30
  • Tim Hollamby, Olean, Aug. 27
  • Grace Levendusky, Avon, Aug. 25
  • Kristina Clark, Auburn, Aug. 26
  • Emily Culligan and Sarah Chadwick, Vestal, Sept. 3
  • Cindy  Klock, Auburn, Aug. 28
  • Margaret and Maryanne Kotylo, Binghamton, Sept. 2
  • Allison Semrau, Rochester, Sept. 4
  • Jordan Carfagno, Pennellville, Sept. 1
  • Jimmy Falco, Syracuse, Sept. 5
  • Cheryl Lynn, Pine City, Aug. 31

Each performer will sing the Anthem at 9:58 a.m. on their assigned day to begin the Fair’s day, and again at midday in the Toyota Coliseum to begin the afternoon session of equestrian competitions. Each winner receives four admission tickets, a parking pass and a $40 voucher good for purchases at select food stands at the Fair. They will also receive one night’s stay at one of the Fair’s hotel partners.

“This competition is one of my favorite events of the Fair,” said Troy Waffner, Acting Fair Director.  “People show their love for America and we get to put their talents on display for everyone to hear.  The passion people bring to this competition and our national song is truly impressive.”

Bethany Denniston, Liverpool Community Chorus President, said, “The Liverpool Community Chorus is a 100+ voice chorus made up of men and women throughout Central New York. We enjoy performing in the community and take pride in supporting worthwhile causes in the arts and beyond. We decided to enter because we thought it would be a fun way to get out into the community and share our love for music. We’re thrilled to be selected as a winner and would like to thank everyone who voted for us as well as congratulate all of our fellow musicians who participated!”

Rebecca Branchau-Besaw said, “Thank you to all who supported me by voting and asking your friends to vote, too! I am excited and honored to have this opportunity. Congratulations to all of the winners who will be performing as well!”

Tim Hollamby, who recently won a contest to open for TV star Theresa Caputo (TLC’s “The Long Island Medium”), said, “I’ve been singing since before I could talk, it’s basically my life. When I found out I was a winner I was ecstatic! I visit the Fair every year and to be able to perform there is going to be a real treat. Thank you to all my family, friends and anyone else who voted for me.” 

Cindy Clark said, “I absolutely love to sing and am so excited to sing at the 2016 Fair. I love singing the National Anthem. I’ve sung it several times locally at Auburn Doubledays baseball games. I’m really excited to perform and enjoy my day at the Fair afterwards!”

Army Reservist Jordan Carfagno, who will sing on Armed Forces Day, said, “I’ve been singing for as long as I can remember. My grandfather actually has videos of me singing when I was about my (four year old) daughter’s age. Singing has become an important outlet for me, and I am excited to use this opportunity to show my love for singing and my country. When I found out I was one of the winners I started doing my happy dance! I am so excited and also thankful for the support others have shown me with their votes.”

Cheryl Lynn, who works from her home for Columbia University in New York City, said, “Singing the national anthem is something I very much enjoy, I’ve sung at Elmira Jackals hockey games and at Tioga Downs horse races. I unfortunately missed the deadline last year, so I was very excited to give it a shot this time around! Thank you to everyone who honored me with their vote!”

Emily Culligan said, “Sarah Chadwick and I decided to enter the competition together for our shared love of singing and music. Both Sarah and I participated in various singing groups and programs throughout our time in Vestal School District and continue to practice music through singing and playing instruments. Being named winners is extremely exciting and we’re proud to have this opportunity to honor our country. Thank you to all who voted for us, we can’t wait!”  Both women are college juniors.

Allison Semrau, a 17 year old senior at Greece Arcadia High School in Rochester, said, “I have been singing since I could make noise, and it’s always been my dream to one day make it big! Recently, I’ve been held back from music due to an anxiety disorder, and I’m hoping this opportunity can be a step in the right direction to changing my life. When I found out I was a winner I was shocked, but ecstatic! Congratulations to all the other winners and thank you to the Fair and those who gave me their votes for this opportunity!”

Grace Levendusky, a musician with a CD to her credit and who is studying at Monroe Community College, said, “My parents are musicians so I grew up with music and singing, it’s always been a big part of my life. I first heard about this competition when a friend posted it on my Facebook wall. I thought it was a great way to honor our country and troops while doing what I love. Thank you to everyone who voted for me, I can’t wait!”

Kristina Clark, an Auburn native and Syracuse Area Live Theater Award recipient, said, “I absolutely love the Fair, I usually go five to six times every year to get my favorite Fair foods like a sausage sandwich and roasted corn. I grew up very patriotic, my dad and grandfather both served our country, and I entered the competition to give a heartfelt performance of our national anthem. I was overjoyed when I found out I was one of the winners, thank you to those who voted for me and congratulations to the other winners, too!”

Margaret and Maryanne Kotylo said, “We are thrilled for the opportunity to sing together at the New York State Fair this year. For over 25 years, we have attended the Fair, never missing a single year. We are also very patriotic. My Mom and I have sung the National Anthem together numerous times for the Binghamton Mets. Combining two of the things we love the most, singing together and attending the State Fair, this was a chance we couldn't pass up.”

Jimmy Falco, a touring musician who has won two Syracuse Area Music Awards, said, “I’ve been playing the guitar since I was 12 years-old. I first heard about the competition from my girlfriend and mom and thought it was a fun event, why not give it a shot? I’ve played the national anthem on my guitar at Syracuse Crunch games -- it was a little slippery on the ice, but it was awesome to play there! I’m really looking forward to playing at the Fair, thanks to my friends and family who gave me their vote!”

The New York State Fair, operated by the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets, runs from August 25 to September 5, 2016.  The Fair's mission, reflected in its theme, "Find Your GREAT!," is to showcase the best of New York agriculture while providing top-quality entertainment.

The 375-acre New York State Fairgrounds is undergoing the most significant transformation since it first opened its gates in 1890. The $50 million plan, announced by Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, revitalizes the grounds in many ways, improving the quality of the fairgoer’s experience and providing greater economic benefits for the region. Improvements include the dramatic new Main Gate— the arches of which recall the carriage gate that greeted fairgoers in 1900, a larger, 15-acre Wade Shows Midway that will hold more rides than ever, and the brand new 315-site Empire RV Park with underground water, sewer and electrical service. The plan will better position the New York State Fairgrounds as a premier year-round, multi-use facility that can attract more events and visitors from across the nation.  Renderings can be viewed here

A year-round schedule of events is available on the Fair’s website.  Find The Great New York State Fair on Facebook, follow @NYSFair on Twitter, and enjoy photos from the Fair at Also, New Yorkers are invited to send their ideas for the Great New York State Fair at

2016 Press Releases