Local News

Sunday, May 18 2014 11:14 PM

Talent show is their chance to shine

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    Rod Thornburg / Special to The Californian At a talent show held at Martin Luther King Park, 52-year-old Dennis Rucker, who has been living at the Bakersfield Rescue Mission for more than six months, plays his harmonica for the crowd.

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    By Rod Thornburg / Special to The Californian

    A talent show at Martin Luther King Jr. Park featured those down on their luck with local singers and musicians entertaining their peers.

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    By Rod Thornburg / Special to The Californian

    Shari Rightmer, who used to be homeless herself and is one of the people who helped put the event together, meets some of he crowd and tries to get them to sign up for the talent show. The show at Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Park featured homeless individuals.

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    By Rod Thornburg / Special to The Californian

    Nathan Engstrom, who has been homeless for about a year now, gives his all on the drums during a talent show at Martin Luther King Jr. Park. The show featued people down on their luck and local singers and musicians entertained their peers and those who gathered to watch. Cedrick R. Crawford helps hold part of the drums.

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    By Rod Thornburg / Special to The Californian

    Nathan Engstrom, who has been homeless for about a year now, gives his all on the drums during a talent show at Martin Luther King Jr. Park. The show featured those down on their luck.

    click to expand click to collapse
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    By Rod Thornburg / Special to The Californian

    Falesha Allen, who just moved into the area across from MLK Park, sings in front of her peers and those gathered to watch a talent show held at Martin Luther King Jr. Park. The show featured those down on their luck and local singers and musicians entertained each other with entertainment like music, songs, poems and a yoga artist.

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    By Rod Thornburg / Special to The Californian

    At a talent show held at Martin Luther King Jr. Park, 52-year-old Dennis Rucker, who has been living at the Bakersfield Rescue Mission for about six and half months, plays his harmonica for the crowd. The show featured those down on their luck.

    click to expand click to collapse
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    By Rod Thornburg / Special to The Californian

    Fifty-six-year-old Don Goldman shows off his talent with the guitar at the talent show for and by those down on their luck. The show was held at Martin Luther King Jr. Park and featured local singers and musicians. The homeless entertained their peers and those gathered to watch the event.

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    By Rod Thornburg / Special to The Californian

    Chayse Crawford performs a poem writen by her dad, Cedric Crawford, who is one of the sponsors of the talent show held at the Martin Luther King Jr. Park. It featured those down on their luck.

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    By Rod Thornburg / Special to The Californian

    The crowd shows their delight during a talent show held at Martin Luther King Jr. Park featuring those down on their luck. Local singers and musicians entertained their peers and those gathered to watch the event.

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    By Rod Thornburg / Special to The Californian

    Neil Wood, a homeless yoga artist living in his mom's backyard, gives the audience a twisted look at a talent show held at Martin Luther King Jr. Park. The talent show featured performers down on their luck.

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    By Rod Thornburg / Special to The Californian

    Talent show sponsors Cedric R. Crawford and Shari Rightmer speak at Martin Luther King Jr. Park. The show featured performers down on their luck. Local singers and musicians entertained their peers and those gathered to watch the event.

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    By Rod Thornburg / Special to The Californian

    The crowd watches a talent show at Martin Luther King Jr. Park featuring people down on their luck.

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By Jason Kotowski Californian staff writer jkotowski@bakersfield.com

They sometimes don’t get a second glance from strangers who pass them on the street, but those who ignore them are overlooking people who have something to offer.

That was the basic message at the Homeless Has Talent event Sunday evening at Martin Luther King Jr. Park, where those down on their luck and just getting by showed they each have their own special gifts.

The rules to the talent show were simple: Keep your performance to five minutes or less, and keep it G-rated.

Nick Manriquez stood at the microphone set up by the tables on the western end of the park and recited a poem of faith and hope, of dreams being fulfilled with his soon-to-be wife, pregnant with their first child.

He talked of an emptiness in his life that’s been filled with this new love.

Falesha Allen needed some time to prepare herself once she stood at the microphone overlooking the several dozen people who’d gathered in the park.

But she soon belted out a verse of “Amazing Grace” that received generous applause.

“Something just told me to go up there and do it,” Allen, 47, said afterward

The performer who may have turned the most heads was 32-year-old Neil Wood with his yoga demonstration.

He held seemingly impossible positions, stretching and contorting his lithe body in a manner that drew shouts of “Oh, man!” and “Mercy!”

It was the type of performance you don’t expect to see outside of Cirque du Soleil.

“Thank you all,” Wood said as he finished. “I love everyone.”

Wood, who said he chooses to live outdoors, said he practices yoga at least weekly.

He was a little nervous Sunday, and he couldn’t stay on his head as long as he normally does. But he was still happy.

“I’m just inspired by the people around me, and it feels good to inspire them,” he said.

Shari Rightmer, organizer of the event, said she lived in the Bakersfield Homeless Shelter five years ago.

It took her awhile to get her life organized and get a place of her own again, and she remembers how hopeless she and others in her predicament felt at times.

“Everyone was so down and out,” she said. “We lost our passion.”

She’s hoping the talent show — and future ones, possibly twice a year or more — help people rediscover that passion, renew their sense of purpose and alleviate the difficulties of their situation.

No awards were given out during the show (hot dogs, chips and sodas were free) because Rightmer wanted the participants to understand they’re all equal regardless of what their talent is.

She said people living on the streets or in shelters sometimes forget what it is to be happy in life. There were plenty of smiles on display Sunday

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