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Toe tappin' time this weekend in Worthington

Judy Johnson (from left), Ken Clark, Cindy Anderson, Stephanie Winters, John Grosz and Teresa Widboom are among the performers to be featured in this year's production of "Gone Country" at Worthington's Memorial Auditorium Performing Arts Center.

WORTHINGTON - Area country music aficionados have little time left to wait: the annual "Gone Country" musical revue at Worthington's Memorial Auditorium Performing Arts Center (MAPAC) is set for Friday and Saturday evenings.

"It's one of our most popular annual events," said MAPAC manager Margaret Hurlbut Vosburgh of the performance featuring over a dozen talented but amateur entertainers from Worthington and the surrounding region. "People leave 'Gone Country' shows with big smiles on their faces, and they love the toe-tapping music."

Cindy Anderson, keyboardist and back-up vocalist with the "Gone Country" house band, helped line up the numbers for the coming weekend and is certain audiences will be as satisfied with the outcome as ever.

"Everyone in it has been involved at least once before -- we're all seasoned veterans," joked Anderson. "We have a wide age range of performers, all the way from Harold Vander Sloot of Ocheyedan down to 16-year-old Aubrey Anderson."

Fittingly, the teenaged Anderson is singing a 2010 Miranda Lambert tune, "The House That Built Me," and another youthful singer, Stephanie Winters of Okabena, will deliver "Pontoon."

"That ('Pontoon') is a really fun one, very contemporary, just out in the past year or two," said Anderson. "There are a lot of songs I like in this show, but I tend to prefer the more up-tempo and contemporary ones.

"We tried to put together a show that will please a broader spectrum of audience goers, throwing in a nice combination of the old and the new," continued Anderson. "There are older country western themes mixed with a flavor of the new, and everyone will see a few of their favorite performers from past shows."

Participating singers come from Beaver Creek, Fulda, Windom, Ocheyedan, Iowa, and of course Worthington.

"Shelly Gieselman is back this year, doing Martina McBride's 'Independence Day,'" noted Anderson.

Songs of country western artists such as Mary Chapin Carpenter, Johnny Cash, Marty Robbins, Martina McBride, Charlie Pride and Kenny Rogers are all among those that made the cut for this year's show.

"I like to think of them as favorite country standards you might hear in dance halls or on juke boxes across the U.S.," Vosburgh said.

One regular face missing from the "Gone Country" stage this year is that of popular guitarist/vocalist Bill Shoup of Brandon, S.D. Shoup is taking a break from the show as he works on a master's degree, but helped cover his musical gap with another experienced guitarist/vocalist, John Grosz of Sioux Falls, S.D.

"John is stepping in as a guest artist," confirmed Vosburgh. "He has played with numerous country bands."

Added Anderson, "John was highly recommended by Bill Shoup, and we started working with him at the end of January to try out some songs and see what we could do together as a band." Bass player Paul Larson and drummer Ken Clark round out the house ensemble.

"John will be singing, too, and I think the audience will enjoy him," said Anderson. "The band is doing some rockin' songs, like 'Guitars and Cadillacs.'"

Additionally, Justin Spaethe will serve as emcee Friday evening, while Matt Widboom is slated to fill that role Saturday night.

A hospitable bonus: Friends of the Auditorium, which sponsors "Gone Country," is offering attendees complimentary coffee and cookies before and after each performance.

"'Gone Country' is all about downhome, country charm, and about engaging the community with regional performers," Vosburgh said. "We want people to get out and have a great evening."

"Gone Country" will take place at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday at Memorial Auditorium Performing Arts Center, 714 13th St., Worthington. All tickets are reserved seating; there is a small discount for tickets purchased by 1 p.m. Friday. Box office hours are 9 a.m. - 1 p.m. weekdays, and tickets are also available at the door beginning one hour before each performance. For more information, call 376-9101.