2 American Idol finalists to perform at Chesapeake's largest festival this weekend

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For more than a decade, Stephanie Welke has prepared for what she calls the best, and most important, volunteer job in Chesapeake – executive director of the Chesapeake Jubilee.

Come Jubilee time May 18-21, she will live in the festival’s “command trailer” at City Park, making sure vendors and festival-goers are happy. Having worked in all aspects of Jubilee planning and execution, Welke knows how much the festival tests the organizational skills and stamina of all 150 volunteers who make the event possible.

“I steer the ship, but everyone is paddling as fast as they can to make it happen,” Welke said.

Jubilee is Chesapeake’s largest festival, complete with food, carnival rides, crafts, petting zoo, demonstrations, 4-H exhibits, barbecue cook-off, concerts and fireworks. Each year it’s important and challenging to make it fresh and new, according to Welke and the committee chairmen who assist her.

“By far the most exciting new event for the Jubilee this year is our Sunday entertainment,” said Berkley Gibbs, chairman of the carnival ride areas and a Jubilee volunteer for 35 years.

For the first time, Chesapeake Jubilee is presenting a new musical direction on Sunday, May 21, called “Celebrating Faith and Unity through Music.”

Bridge Workshop opens the Sunday show at 12:30 p.m., and 757 Workshop Collective follows.

Chris Sligh

“American Idol” finalist Chris Sligh will headline the music stage May 21 at the Chesapeake Jubilee. Internet Image

“American Idol” finalist Chris Sligh will take the stage from 4:30 to 6 p.m. that day. He reached 10th place in the final rounds of the American Idol Season 6 in 2007, and has since released 10 albums. His three Top 30 singles on the national Christian Album charts include: “Empty Me” (No. 3), “Arise” (No. 30) and “Only You Can Save” (No. 13).

Chris Richardson, Chesapeake native and fifth-place finalist in American Idol Season 6, will perform from 9 to 10 p.m. May 19, and Richmond country rocker Brittany Marie will take the stage 3:30 to 5 p.m. May 20.

Chris Richardson

“American Idol” finalist  will perform at the Chesapeake Jubilee. 

Other new features of the Jubilee include:

  • The Colonial Seaport Foundation, based in Deltaville, with its hands-on activities: rope-making, cooking demo and navigation techniques that teach maritime history.

  • A new Kidway carnival area with 20 rides for youngsters, while the main Midway welcomes back favorites such as the Fire Ball and giant Ferris wheel. New adult rides include the SkyFall free fall.
  • A larger arts and crafts tent.

It’s also important to maintain tradition, like the annual BBQ Cook-off Competition sanctioned by the Kansas City Barbecue Society – and food favorites like funnel cakes and turkey legs.

“Funnel cakes are my favorite, and it’s the only time and place I eat them,” Welke said.

Lastly, but most importantly to many festival-goers, fireworks will turn the night sky into a kaleidoscope of color and creativity, thanks to the famed Zambelli family, promises Steve Best. Best is co-chairman of the fireworks committee along with Buddy Bagley, who has chaired the fireworks since their inception 34 years ago.

“This year, we will dedicate the show to our nation’s armed forces and our first responders,” Best said.

“We always produce a patriotic show, and the Jubilee wishes to express our appreciation to them and their families for the many sacrifices they make every day. We will begin the show with the ‘Star-Spangled Banner’ sung by Chesapeake’s own Kathy Williams, and end with the ‘1812 Overture.’

“Somewhere in-between, we will include a military medley representing each of the five branches of service along with a few surprises you won’t want to miss.”

Posted to: Entertainment

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