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West Islip man to sing national anthem at state fair

Jim DeCastro stands in front of his home

Jim DeCastro stands in front of his home in West Islip, Aug. 9, 2015. DeCastro won the opportunity to sing the National Anthem at the New York State Fair. Photo Credit: Ed Betz

A West Islip man received more than 17,000 votes on social media for his a cappella rendition of "The Star-Spangled Banner," winning him the opportunity to perform at the Great New York State Fair this year.

Jim DeCastro, 53, is among a baker's dozen of people selected through the fair's first-ever "Star-Spangled Challenge" to perform at the annual 12-day fair held in Syracuse. The president of the Babylon Chorale stuck to the traditional version of the song, while others performed it in duos or trios, sang with accompaniment or added flowery trills to the notes, he said.

"It's a song of honor and patriotism, so I didn't want to deviate from the notes too much," he said. "I think that resonated with people and they recognized my version more than some of the others."

Only 13 of the 263 people who submitted videos were selected to perform. DeCastro is scheduled to sing Sept. 6.

The entries came from 35 counties across the state, including at least five performers from Long Island. Previously, a recorded version of the anthem was played daily before the fair began.

"The Star-Spangled Banner is America's most important song and it deserves respectful, live performance," acting fair director Troy Waffner said in a release. The videos, both vocals and instrumentals, were posted on Facebook and performers who received the most votes were named winners.

During the more than three-week contest, people could vote up to once per hour on Facebook.

Attempting to win the competition quickly became a "grassroots campaign," he said. He and his wife contacted friends and family, posted about the competition on Facebook and created online ads.

"It was quite a thrill and quite the endeavor, but I think it'll be well worth it," he said.

DeCastro had the third-highest number of votes. Kenzie Murphy, 10, of Ilion, garnered the most votes, 25,515, with a video of herself performing the anthem at a baseball game.

Each performer is slated to sing twice on his or her scheduled day. The winners' first performance, which open the day's events and is broadcast over the entire fairgrounds, is at 9:30 a.m. atChevy Court. The second performance, at 1 p.m. at Toyota Coliseum, will kick off equestrian events.

DeCastro, who grew up in Garden City, has lived in West Islip for nearly 28 years. He and his wife, Sue, have two children. He works as a customer service manager for Avaya, a technology company.

He also serves as clerk of session for the Westminster United Presbyterian Church in West Islip.

He has never been to the New York State Fair before.

The fair will be held Aug. 27 through Sept. 7 at 581 State Fair Blvd. in Syracuse.


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