There are two ways to make it to the semi-finals. One is to advance by winning at a county fair talent show, but you don't have to live in the county where you enter. The other is to audition at the fairgrounds at the end July. Last year Senden went the county fair route and didn't make it to the finals. This year she went to the July audition and was one of the 30 people selected to advance out of a pool of more than 100 pre-teen competitors.
“She made it to the State Fair last year through the Le Sueur County Fair, but she placed second,” Lynell Senden said. “She's worked very hard this year. We went to the finals last year to see what it was like. When we were sitting in the Grandstand, she looked at her dad and said, 'I'm going to make it next year.' And she did.”
Lauren Senden described the experience of performing in front of a crowd of 5,000 people as “nerve-wracking.” Once she started singing and interacting with the crowd, though, her nerves settled and the event became fun, she said.
Senden is young but she isn't a stage rookie. She's performed in productions of Annie and The Sound of Music at Minnesota State University. She also participated in a summer camp at the Children's Theatre Company in Minneapolis, which included four performances.
It was still intimidating to see all the talent she had to compete against before advancing to the finals, Senden said.
“I had a pretty good idea I was going to make it through the auditions,” she said. “Then when I got to the Leinie Lodge that was scary because the talent was so much better and they played guitars and wrote their own songs.