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The Daily



08-05-03: Bertke kicks off fair entertainment
The Daily Standard
    Sharon Bertke is getting anxious with showtime just hours away at the 151st Mercer County Banner Fair. The adrenaline is pumping and she's ready to sing.
    The tall blonde, whose repertoire runs the gamut from Pasty Cline to Celine Dion, kicks off the entertainment lineup at 8 tonight in the entertainment tent.
    "I learned long ago to get up on stage and just be me," the Osgood resident says with a smile. "I put my heart and soul into each show. I would not be satisfied with anything less."
    Bertke, a busy wife and mother of three, remembers a time not so long ago when she thought her singing career might be over.
    "I didn't know how on earth I would find time to practice and perform after the birth of our third child," she says. "It only took a show or two to realize, hey I'm not done yet."
    Music has been a way of life since childhood, when she pecked out tunes on her grandfather's piano - the very same instrument that now occupies a place of honor in her living room.
    Bertke remembers asking her father, Ed Didier of Versailles, the same question day in and day out.
    "Daddy, do you know what I'm going to be when I grow up?"
    He would pause before responding, "A nurse? A teacher?"
    "No daddy, I'm going to be a singer," she would say as excitement danced in her eyes.
    The 1988 Versailles High School graduate took a giant step toward achieving that goal in May 1990. Armed with prior modeling experience, she entered the Sunburst Beauty Pageant in Columbus. With microphone in hand, she quickly realized that music and not pageantry was her forte. The judges agreed, awarding her a tall, shiny trophy as talent competition winner. It wasn't long before she collected even more talent show hardware.
    She later auditioned and landed the lead singing position first with the Maria Stein-based band Double Effort and later with Bushwack, a popular band in the Versailles area. When band members decided the time had come to lay down their instruments and pursue other interests, she went out on her own.
    Bertke chuckles remembering her first solo appearance at the Greenville American Legion Hall.
    "I didn't have to talk as part of the band," she says. "Suddenly it was just me on that stage and my husband, Mark, handling lights and sound. Talk about a case of nerves. A woman later told me people only get nervous about the things for which they are most passionate."
    Five years ago the Bertkes designed a float and took her show to appreciative audiences lining parade routes at area festivals. Each appearance brought more bookings.
    With three children - Shayla, 4 1/2, Isaac, 2 1/2, and Ethan, 8 months, - her hectic schedule has been pared back somewhat. Shows now last 1 1/2 hours instead of three so she can get home in time to sing to the children at bedtime.
    "Finding time to practice has become harder," Bertke admits with a sigh. "I tried singing to the kids. Shayla and Isaac loved it so much they grabbed the microphone and joined in."
    The singer once came to engagements armed with a song list outlining her program from start to finish. She tossed the list sometime ago, preferring to take requests from the audience.
    One popular request - "My Heart Will Go On" from the Titanic movie - draws thunderous applause and standing ovations. Even before the 9-11 tragedy in New York City, she ended each show with "God Bless the USA" as a tribute to veterans. The words have become even more meaningful in the wake of the terrorist attack and the continuing conflict in Iraq.
    "People have told me Celine is my style," she says. "She is such a wonderful singer. I'm lucky enough to sing her music without sounding too bad."
    Shania Twain is another favorite. Her music contains just enough rock to keep people in the audience tapping their feet to the infectious beat. The number of requests for Brittany Spears music has her considering trips along that avenue.
    Fans know Bertke is not one to remain on stage throughout a show. She loves to get down with the people, sitting on the knees of older fellows and patting their bald heads. Handicapped adults and children get special attention.
    "I love the feedback from the audience," she says. "They give me energy and the result is magical. I'm having the time of my life entertaining people. If it ever stops being fun, that will be the time to walk away."
    Mark Bertke handles bookings as well as lights and sound. He is there to support his wife every step of the way from introductions to light-hearted banter that endears them to the crowd.
    Sure she dreams about stardom and seeing her name on the marquee at a sold-out concert. But that doesn't seem as important as it once did.
    "God has a plan for me," she says. "I would like to be famous, what singer wouldn't? But if it doesn't happen that's fine because I'm content right where I am as a wife, a mother and a local performer."


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