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Cash to Amateur Crooners : Borderline Bar and Grill in Thousand Oaks kicks off the eight-week talent event on Wednesday.

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Reba and Garth wanna-bes in search of a few bucks and an audience beyond their shower walls can check out the eight-week Amateur Country Singers Talent Contest that kicks off Wednesday at the Borderline Bar and Grill in Thousand Oaks.

Thunder FM deejay Bob Allen will emcee. Each week he’ll give away a $100 first prize and $50 second prize. On the ninth Wednesday, finalists will sing for a grand prize (which has yet to be announced).

Entering is free and easy, but there are some rules.

The contest is open to single entries or duos but no bands. You have to be an amateur without a record deal or a contract. Contestants must perform cover tunes only--no original material. Chart music must be provided for the Cold Creek Band, a Calabasas-based group that will back the singers.

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A maximum of 20 contestants per night will perform. Sign-ups are at 8 p.m. and performances begin at 9 after the last dance lesson.

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You don’t have to read Billboard or Country Weekly magazines to know that 1994 was country music’s biggest year ever. And activities on the local country entertainment scene are reflecting this trend. So you might want to mark the following dates on your calendars.

The Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza had such demand for tickets for the Willie Nelson concert in November and the Anne Murray concert in December, they had to add second shows. Now they are responding to local demand for country acts by adding two hot shows to this year’s roster: The Oak Ridge Boys appear on March 5, and Pam Tillis, Country Music Assn.'s 1994 Female Vocalist of the Year, comes to town May 5.

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Don’t forget you can see the original Man in Black, Johnny Cash, on Feb. 25. Kenny Rogers will perform Feb. 17 to 19. And you’ll be able to catch those hit-makers, The Mavericks, with Junior Brown across town at the Ventura Theater on Feb. 28.

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Two local bands have new CDs that are being well received. Larry Dean’s effort takes its name from one of the cuts, “From a Distance,” and is an enjoyable mix of original tunes and even a Gene Autry classic, “Twilight on the Trail.” You can get the CD at Cousin’s in Simi Valley, where the Calabasas-based Dean and the Shooters often perform. Their next gig is Jan. 27 and 28.

The Rhythm Rangers’ “Aces and Eights” CD is a fun mix of their country, rock and R&B; originals that should keep fans dancing for a long time. The CD release party/concert starts at 8 p.m. Jan. 26 at Maxie’s.

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Head’s up, country dance fans. The Sunday family dance lessons and country format at Oxnard’s Wagon Wheel Restaurant have been put to bed. And the Crazy Bull in Camarillo is looking for more support from its clientele. So don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Meanwhile the new Country Nights on Thursdays at Maxie’s in Oak View is growing and the place was packed last week. Beginning at 7 p.m. you’ll learn two dances, and at 8:30 p.m. the Rhythm Rangers play.

Last week Rick Henderson renamed his popular Tuesday “Rockin’ Rodeo” country night at Splash Night Club in Simi Valley’s Radisson Hotel and opened it to all ages. The new name is “Crazy Country Nights” and kids age 16 and older can now stay until closing. But those under 16 have to leave at 9:30 p.m.

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And watch for the return of Rick Henderson’s Ventura Western Days--a three-day dance competition and workshop marathon, March 17 to 19. In October, country karaoke deejay, Vince Fiske, will follow suit with his second annual Ventura Dance Invitational Weekend.

DETAILS

* WHAT: Amateur Singers Talent Contest.

* WHEN: 9 p.m. every Wednesday, next week through March 15; March 22 for finalists only.

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* WHERE: The Borderline Bar and Grill, 99 Rolling Oaks Drive, Thousand Oaks.

* HOW MUCH: No charge to enter.

* CALL: 446-4435.


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