Not the big prize, but maybe the best one

Cierra Williams performs

Cierra Williams performs “Jesus, Take the Wheel” at the Nashville Country Star state finals at the Omak PAC on Saturday, March 31. Brent Baker photos

OMAK – Cierra Williams may not have broken into the ranks of the big prizes at Saturday’s Nashville Country Star state finals.

But she ended up with prize that in the long run she’ll remember even more.

The Tonasket High School senior received a special award as part of the closing ceremonies given to the contestant with the largest “fan club” in attendance, as more than 40 of the crowd of nearly 500 traveled specifically to see Williams’ performance. With 15 finalists, most from the eastern half of the state, and a number of local fans unattached to a single contestant, it made for a big night for Williams, in just her second singing contest and the first in which she’s reached the finals.

She also received $200 as one of the finalists.

“I was surprised,” Williams said. “I was really, really flattered by the turnout.”

She said the results of the contest weren’t as important as having gotten to experience it, especially the big stage at the Omak PAC that added to the atmosphere.

“The stage was bigger, the lights were brighter,” she said. “I liked it better (than smaller venues in previous rounds). It was just a lot of fun.”

Williams performed two numbers: “Crazy” by Patsy Cline, and Carrie Underwood’s “Jesus, Take the Wheel.”

“The first one I wanted to try something different, and something that worked well with my lower register,” Williams said. “‘Jesus, Take the Wheel,’ I’d sung before and was really comfortable with and showed off my higher register, so between the two I was able to go both high and low.”

Her experience with “Jesus, Take the Wheel” showed, as she delivered a heartfelt, confident performance. It wasn’t enough to get into the big money on a night that featured an impressive array of talent. Emily Stredwick of Connell won the $1,500 top prize, edging out Bonney Lake’s Maile Gagner.

Williams said the 15 finalists enjoyed their time together, despite the fact that it was a competition and not merely a performance.

“It was like a big family,” Williams said. “Everyone was super cool. We were giving each other high fives. It was really, really encouraging.”

Cierra’s parents, Melody and Kevin, said they were overwhelmed by the Tonasket community’s turnout.

“We would like thank our wonderful community for supporting Cierra in her singing adventure,” Melody Williams said.