Long Island’s Got Country competition held in Wading River

JENNETT MERIDEN RUSSELL | Paula Rose, 26, of Rocky Point, accompanied by Mike Klatt of Clarendon, NY, took first place in the first annual Long Island's Got County music contest at the in The Inn and Spa at East Wind in Wading River on Saturday.

Paula Rose has never thought of herself as much of a songbird, but apparently somebody thinks she can sing because the 26-year-old Rocky Point resident won first place Saturday night in the first annual Long Island’s Got Country contest.
Roughly 600 people and 20 contestants turned out for the hayseed hoedown, which was held at The Inn and Spa at East Wind in Wading River. The show was the brainchild of Peter Castelli and Dennis Feldman, co-owners of SSLI Productions of Smithtown, which also provides music talent contests at schools across the region.
“This is just so amazing, I’ve never won anything before,” said Ms Rose, who was accompanied on guitar by Clarendon, NY native Mike Platt during her rendition of country music star Jennifer Nettles’ “Stay.” The win came one day before Ms. Rose planned to audition for NBC-TV’s national talent show – “America’s Got Talent.”
“I guess I’ll sing ‘Stay’ again for them,” Ms. Rose beamed. “We’ll see what comes next.”
Long Island’s Got Country was hosted by WALK radio afternoon drive time personality K.T. Mills. The sinewy D.J. bought a stylish black cowgirl outfit, complete with matching boots, just for the country music gig.
Ms. Mills credited Mr. Castelli and Mr. Feldman for creating a venue that appeals to a large, but unrecognized Long Island contingent – country music fans.
“This is a niche that’s underserved – there’s a lot of country music fans out there,” Ms. Mills said. “We want to make it more than just a guilty pleasure. We want to make it an outlet where they can come and enjoy the music, because country music is just like a little piece of life – it’s about heartache and heartbreak, good guys and bad girls and the biggest lesson of all is to get up with your bootstraps when life knocks you down and keep hanging in there.”
Most contestants sang along to karaoke country music and kept their performances relatively tame, except for third place Long Island’s Got Country winner, Billy Gagnon. Performing “Save a Horse – Ride a Cowboy,” a country music grinder by Big Kenny and John Rich, otherwise known as “Big & Rich,” Mr. Gagnon hopped off the stage during his performance and leapt onto a nearby table, much to the chagrin and delight of the roughly ten people seated at the table.
“Everybody else was just being kind of monotone and working the stage and I figured I wanted to try and stand out somehow,” said the wiry 40-year-old Huntington resident, who has been singing country music since he was a young boy. “I play guitar and I write my own songs, but I don’t have a band and I don’t really perform. I basically just wrote a song or two for my girlfriend and I’m happy just to do that.”
Mr. Gagnon’s girlfriend, Barbara Keen of Babylon, said she fell in love with her tall drink of water after seeing him perform karaoke at local bars. She noted she was delighted by her boyfriend’s performance and antics and did not feel at all uncomfortable about her significant other shaking his buff bootie in front of an audience.
“He’s a showman,” Ms. Keen giggled. “The first time I saw him sing karaoke I was quite surprised by his talent and I’ve enjoyed it ever since.”