Group of Columbus Got Talent contestants set to compete for $1,000 top prize

In the Punjab region of northern India, residents sometimes dance to celebrate the harvest’s bounty. Punjab native Namit Goyal remembers that with such fondness from his childhood that an 11-member Indian group he assembled will demonstrate one such aspect of this jubilation at Saturday’s inaugural Columbus Got Talent contest.

The event will unfold at 5 p.m. at Judson Erne Auditorium, 1400 15th St. in Columbus.

At the end, Goyal and his Bhangra Beats hope to earn the $1,000 top prize that show organizers from the Columbus Area Multi-Ethnic Organization will present to best of the 18 acts that advanced from recent auditions.

But he is quick and clear to say money hardly motivates his ensemble, most of whom never before have danced like this.

“Win or lose,” Goyal said, “this is a great platform for sharing diversity.”

Organizers hoped when they announced the contest earlier this year that it could feature a mix of performances and backgrounds. And that has materialized, according to Rajib Panda, one of the organizers.

“We are very excited to get so many diverse participants from many different ethnic groups,” Panda said.

More than 40 acts signed up for auditions. Although judges originally planned to select 15 acts for Saturday’s show, they shifted gears when audition scores for several of the performers were close together.

So three extra entrants will be part of the event, which Panda hopes will draw 300 people.

Organizers are forecasting an eye-opening experience for those aiming to build bridges among varied cultures locally. In fact, therein lies much the aim of CAMEO, which also helps its members feel more at home in Bartholomew County.

Columbus resident Carmen Garcia decided to jump into the contest although she felt she didn’t even have a chance to get past the audition.

Besides, she mentioned a decade or more has passed since she had sung a solo — in her native Venezuela, in church and along with other performers for charity benefits. She will sing the Simon and Garfunkel classic, “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” split between Spanish and English.

“I thought people would be able to relate to it,” she said.

Garcia loves the wide range of acts — and the wide range of ethnicity.

“I think it really shows that, even though this is a small town, Columbus still has a lot of diversity,” she said.

Saturday’s show features diverse talents as well.

Isha Chavan will offer a demonstration of advanced yoga that appears mind-bending as well as body bending. Facing forward with her chin near the floor, she drapes her legs over her shoulders and places her feet in front of her — and on her head like a human pretzel.

“People ask me, ‘How do you DO that?’” the 14-year-old said with a chuckle.

“I tell them, ‘Lots of practice.’”

Ideally this weekend, Bhangra Beats’ Goyal hopes that his group’s exuberance moves the audience. Literally. To the point that viewers themselves will get up and dance — even onstage with them, if they wish.

“Absolutely,” Goyal said. “The more the merrier.”

In the spotlight

What: Columbus Area Multi-Ethnic Organization’s inaugural Columbus Got Talent show, featuring 18 acts, from music to dance to yoga.

When: 5 to 7 p.m. Saturday.

Where: Judson Erne Auditorium, 1400 25th St. in Columbus.

Admission: $10 for adults in advance at the Columbus Got Talent Facebook page and $12 at the door; $5 in advance for youth ages 10 to 17 and $7 at the door; those younger than 10 will be admitted free.

Information: columbuscameo.org.

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Brian Blair is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at bblair@therepublic.com or 812-379-5672.