GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

July 3, 2013

Manchester girl to belt it out before fireworks

By Ethan Forman
Staff Writer

---- — DANVERS — If the weather holds, there’s going to be fireworks in the sky and on the stage tonight.

Alexandra Valenti, 17, of Manchester, an incoming Manchester Essex Regional High School senior, will be wowing the crowd on stage with “American Idol” top 10 contestant Erika Van Pelt and her band. Van Pelt and her band are scheduled to headline the stage show from 8 to 9 p.m., before the rockets light up the night sky at the Danvers Family Festival’s fireworks. (The rain date for the event is Friday, July 5.)

Rhode Island’s Van Pelt, a Season 11 finalist of “American Idol,” was a judge for the annual Danvers Idol singing talent contest, held at Danvers High on Friday. During that event, Valenti was crowned the new Danvers Idol, beating out nine other finalists for the top prize of $500. The win also gave Valenti a chance to perform at the fireworks.

The stage show, which kicks off at 6 p.m., is meant to entertain the crowd as it files into a fenced-in Plains Park. New security measures have been put in place due to the Boston Marathon bombings.

Along with Van Pelt and Valenti, the stage show will include a lot of local talent, including Kate Eppers of Danvers, who has worked with the Cape Ann Big Band.

After the stage show, there will be a patriotic program at 9 p.m., and the winner of the 50/50 raffle will be announced at 9:15. The so-called “best fireworks north of Boston” display is scheduled to start at 9:30 p.m.

Valenti said she is excited to perform at the fireworks. She started doing open mike shows about a year ago, and has gotten a lot of gigs after singing at her English teacher’s wedding last July. She often donates money she earns from shows to the Susan G. Komen for the Cure breast cancer foundation.

Why did she try out for Danvers Idol in the first place?

“My friend who was at an open mike night messaged me and said I should see what happens,” Valenti said. She also credits her music teachers, Jen Tobiasz of Danvers and Lisa Cheney of Salem, and thanked her high school band director, Joe Sokol, for letting her sing with the jazz band this past school year.

“He helped me gain a lot of confidence and I gained a lot from him,” Valenti said.

Valenti said she was thrilled to meet Van Pelt in person.

“Erika was awesome,” Valenti said about meeting her. “It was really surreal to meet her in person. She was someone I watched on TV, and I think she is a great role model.” Valenti would love to try out for a spot on another singing talent show, “The Voice.”

For those who get hungry waiting for the fireworks and listening to the musical acts, the inaugural Danvers Food Truck Festival will feature traveling eateries such as The Cookie Monstah, Grilled Cheese Nation, and Lobsta Love, to name a few.

There will be three security checkpoints to the park at 55 Conant St. (behind the Holten Richmond Middle School) — on Porter Street, at the main entrance on Lane Parkway and toward the rear of the school, according to Danvers police Sgt. Robert Bettencourt. After officials sweep the park, it will open at 4 p.m.

Officers will check the lines for people who have items that need to be screened. Any food and drink must be carried in clear plastic bags, however. Police will strictly enforce the no cooler and backpack rules.

Security will be provided by more than 50 detail officers, and the state police will provide a bomb-sniffing dog.

“We just want to make sure it’s safe for everyone,” Bettencourt. said.

For more information on the contest and Danvers Family Festival, visit www.DanversFamilyFestival.com.

Staff writer Ethan Forman can be contacted at 978-338-2673 or eforman@gloucestertimes.com.