Weather Forecast


Ventriloquist brings cast of characters to Corn Palace tonight

Six years ago, a panel of judges and millions of Americans agreed: Terry’s got talent.

Tonight, “America’s Got Talent” winner Terry Fator will bring his comedian/ventriloquist/impressionist stylings to the Corn Palace on the second night of big-name entertainment during the Corn Palace Festival.

“We’re so excited about playing the Corn Palace. I’ve heard about it my entire life,” Fator said. “Your reputation precedes you.”

As does Fator’s. Corn Palace Director Mark Schilling said Fator’s show has sold 2,400 seats so far, making it the best-selling Corn Palace show of the year. There are still tickets available for the show, which has a capacity of 2,600-2,700 seats.

“We’re very pleased with this and hope that we can fill up those last seats that we have,” Schilling said.

For Fator, it all started when he found a book in his elementary school’s library about ventriloquism.

“It fascinated me,” he said. “It’s a lot of fun to think of something like that. It’s almost kind of magical.”

He discovered he had a knack for it, along with spot-on impersonations of celebrity singers, from Lady Gaga to Garth Brooks to Aretha Franklin.

“It’s just something I’ve always been able to do,” Fator said. “I’ve always been able to impersonate singers.”

“I’m sure I was very annoying when I was young,” he added with a laugh.

Fator said he was able to re-create the tones of different artists while listening to an album. And though Fator said his natural voice is high, hard work has helped him expand his vocal range.

“I’m an incredibly fortunate person,” Fator said. “I’m a very firm believer in God, and I believe He gave me these gifts for a reason. I’m trying my hardest to use them to the best of my abilities.”

Since winning Season 2 of “America’s Got Talent,” NBC’s talent-seeking reality show, Fator’s career took off. He’s headlined his own show at the Mirage in Las Vegas for almost five years. Not only was his contract recently extended to 2016, but he also was named the 2013 Best All-Around Show at this year’s Best of Las Vegas awards.

“It’s just such an unbelievable honor,” Fator said. “The amount of competition out there is just phenomenal.”

It’s been a whirlwind experience for Fator, but far from an overnight success story for the 48-year-old.

“I was a professional entertainer for 25 years before I went on ‘America’s Got Talent,’ ” Fator said. “Without ‘America’s Got Talent,’ I would still be playing the county fairs and elementary schools.

“Once I hit 40, I kind of assumed that was my lot in life, and I was OK with that, because I loved my job and loved my fans.”

That’s why, even though he went into the reality show competition with a plan, he didn’t go in with high expectations.

“I’d had my dreams dashed so many times before. I didn’t want to get my hopes up,” Fator said. “I never thought I was going to win the show.”

After his win in August 2007, Fator said he landed his first headlining gig in Las Vegas in October. He kept that gig through 2008, until signing with The Mirage Hotel & Casino in 2009 -- an unprecedented quick rise up the Las Vegas ranks.

“No headliner has ever started out without working their way up through smaller casinos,” he said. “If I had not won (“America’s Got Talent”), they told me I would not be playing the Mirage.”

Most of the other winners of “America’s Got Talent” are musicians; Fator, on the other hand, said his act -- a combination of music, comedy, impressions and even a few “poignant moments” -- was well-suited to the Sin City stage.

“Putting together a Vegas show was very easy. I had three hours’ worth of material,” he said. “I do so much more than just singing or ventriloquism or just impressions.”

During his show, Fator said the audience will meet many different characters, like Maynard Tompkins, the self-described “world’s greatest Elvis impersonator” who forgets to learn Elvis songs. Or Wrex, the “Impact assessment consultant,” aka crash-test dummy.

“It’s just a little bit of everything. You’ll laugh a lot,” Fator said. “My goal is just to make sure every audience member leaves saying ‘wow, that was one of the best shows I’ve ever seen.’ ”

Fator’s cast of characters can be inspired by something he sees on TV or a conversation with a friend.

“It could be anything,” he said. “Sometimes it’s just something where you just think, ‘wow, that would be an interesting idea.’ ”

In addition to his shows, Fator’s off-stage work includes the Clinton Detweiler Scholarship he created to send aspiring ventriloquists to the Vent Haven Convention and hone their ventriloquism skills. He also seeks to honor military veterans and donates to veterans’ charities.

“I just feel like a lot of people forget what these people do for us,” Fator said. “It’s just my way of making sure people remember.”

The Corn Palace Festival continues through Sunday with carnival rides and an outdoor freedom stage downtown, and headliner entertainment in the Corn Palace including country music singer Craig Morgan with special guest Gloriana on Saturday, and The Happy Together Tour on Sunday.