Glow sticks, a jar of honey and “The Little Mermaid” were just a few oddities and marvels onstage at the University of Central Florida’s first Homecoming Knights Got Talent event Wednesday evening.
More than 1,400 UCF students, parents, faculty and staff joined hands at the CFE Arena to welcome the new event to the 2016 homecoming week. Talents included juggling, singing, baton twirling and freestyle soccer dribbling.
The judges featured an array of UCF community members: senior political science and history student and SGA Student Body President Chris Clemente, 21, Fraternity and Sorority Life former director Woody Joseph, 32, Office of Student Involvement former director Dr. Michael Preston, 43, and senior event management student Abbie Kellner, 21. The panel asked each contestant about their talent once they finished their acts.
UCF senior elementary education student Ethan Hooper, 22, hosted the event alongside beloved UCF mascot Knightro. After 15 acts, a Q&A with the homecoming court and some dance moves from Knightro, judge Preston said “it was a night he would do all over again.”
“Being a judge was really hard,” Preston said. “I kind of thought the talent would be eh, but it was way better than I thought. Our students are so talented it freaks me out.”
Linda Solange, 24, a senior music education and interdisciplinary studies student, sang “Listen” by Beyonce and was the only act to receive a standing ovation. Solange took home not only the first place trophy but also the fan favorite trophy. Her twist to the famous song featured in the film “Dream Girls” included a verse sung in Spanish.
“I’m Puerto Rican, which is very important to me,” Solange said. “I sing in all types of languages – Portuguese, Italian and French – and I wanted the audience to hear some of this song in Spanish.”
The second place winner was junior legal studies major Brianne Doucette, 19, who belted out lyrics from Adele’s recently released song “When We Were Young.” Magician Francisco Alvaro, a 21-year old senior biology student, won the crowd over with a card trick and a volunteer from the audience. Alvaro placed third.
Some of the unique skills brought to the stage Wednesday night made the audience gasp in excitement. Junior biomedical sciences student Mike Dieffenbach, 22, juggled in the dark with light-up balls, sophomore mechanical engineering major Raymond Bernier, 19, sang and played guitar with a shot of honey down his throat and freshman global studies student Bruno Kallas, 19, dribbled and danced with a soccer ball. Freshmen Chris Hedley, 18, a game design major, and film student Callie Wills, 18, also performed a duet musical number from “The Little Mermaid.”
Fans of the show’s final contestants, the band Miss Appear, were happy to see them perform live.
“Honestly, I’m so proud of them,” sophomore marketing major Alexandra Quintero, 20, said. “I’m proud of all the acts tonight. They did an incredible job.”
Although the talents were largely diverse, students who attended Knights Got Talent cried together, laughed and hummed along as their fellow knights showed off their skills.
The next homecoming events will be concert night Thursday evening and “spirit splash” Friday afternoon.