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2016 Bill Riley Talent Search
Contestant Rules


1. Show is open to legal residents of the state of Iowa only.  Acts must appear in a locally sponsored/Iowa State Fair sanctioned show somewhere in the state of Iowa and be the show qualifier to be eligible to compete at the Iowa State Fair. Judges decisions are final.

2. Sprouts: Ages 2 through 12                Seniors: Ages 13 through 21

A person’s age for the Iowa State Fair competition is determined at the time they win a local show.  A 12 year old (or 21 year old) could turn 13 (or 22) by the State Fair and still be eligible in the Sprout (or Senior) division, as they met age requirements at the time of qualification.

3.Sprout acts will be permitted to have one performer who is 13 years old only.  If a performer in a Sprout act turns 13 before the State Fair, thus making the Sprout act have two or more 13 year olds, that act will automatically become a Senior act.  Any performer who is 14 years or older will not be allowed to perform in a Sprout act.

4.Acts are required to keep the performance at three minutes or less. Acts running longer than three minutes are subject to possible disqualification or point deduction. This will be at the judge’s discretion.  Keep the act at three minutes please. Set-up time is not included. Please try to limit set-up time to one minute.

5.No more than five persons are allowed in an act.  Piano accompanist is NOT included in an act and may be any age.  No more than three accompanists permitted per act.  Drums, amps, etc. are discouraged due to the one-minute set-up time.  No combos, rock bands or similar musical groups permitted.

6 Acts are asked to not dance onto or off the stage.  After introductions, you may take any position you wish to begin your performance.

7. Vocalists can perform with an accompanist or CD/Ipod. Prerecorded tracks should be instrumental only.  Any prerecorded track with backing vocals is not allowed, and the act will be disqualified.

8. Looping (typically seen in vocal or instrumental performances) is allowed as part of an act as long as each loop is performed live on stage. Previously recorded loops will not be allowed. Looping equipment must be provided by the contestant. 

9. Foul language is not allowed in the Bill Riley Talent Search. Acts performing to or singing pieces with inappropriate lyrics will be disqualified.

10. Contestants may only appear once in any given show.  This applies to qualifying shows as well as the competition at the Iowa State Fair.  They may not perform “solo” and then return in the same show in a duet or trio.  Contestants are allowed to perform in different acts in different shows, but they may only qualify for the State Fair Show with one act. Once a performer has qualified for the State Fair they must not perform in local shows as part of another act. They may keep competing in local shows with the qualifying performance.

11.Professionals are NOT permitted to compete.  This includes Union musicians and anyone whose principal source of income is from their talent.  Compensation for performing at weddings, etc. does not constitute principle source of income.

Competition at the Iowa State Fair:

  • Preliminary rounds: First 7 days
  • Semi finals: Days 8, 9, and 10
  • Championship show: Day 11

Semi-Finalists: Semi-finalists from last year’s Iowa State Fair Talent Search are automatically qualified for the next State Fair competition.  You do not have to re-qualify for next year’s show by winning at the local level show, but you are encouraged to compete at local shows. If you win at the local level show, you are entitled to the prize money, but you must inform the emcee that you have already qualified for the State Fair. The second place winner will then be able to advance to the State Fair competition.  Remember, you are entitled to the first place prize money.

Birthdays and Semi-Finalists: Semi-finalists returning the following year will perform in the division for their current age. Example, if a 12 year old makes the semi-finals in the Sprout division, and they turn 13 by the next State Fair they will be placed in the Senior division.

Sprout Division Champions: There will be 6 Sprout Champions showcased in the Championship Show. Sprout Champions in the Sprout division must sit out one year of competition.* They also must re-qualify when returning after the one-year absence, and be 12 years old or less to compete in the Sprout division.

Senior Division Championship: There will be 9 finalists in competition. All finalists in the Senior division must sit out one year - they cannot perform as an individual or in a group during the next year. They also must re-qualify when returning after the one-year absence, and be 21 years old or less.  The “Grand Champion” of the Senior division is no longer allowed to compete in the Bill Riley Talent Search at the local or State Fair level.

*The only exception to the one-year absence will be for Sprout Champions who were 12 years old when they won.  They do not have to sit out a year and are automatically qualified for the next State Fair as a Senior. It is highly recommended that they compete at the local level as a Senior to get a feel for the older division.

All divisions must qualify within the age requirement.  For example, if you are 21 and don’t qualify before you are 22 you are ineligible, or if you are a Sprout and don’t qualify before you are 12 you will compete in the Senior division.

 Acts will need name, complete address, birth date, age, phone number (include area code), email and type of talent.  Multiple acts need one member to act as a contact person with all information going through them.  Additional members of the act need only birth date, age, and town.

Bill Riley, Jr.
Bill Riley Talent Search

Tonya Cook
Special Events Director

Iowa State Fair
(515)262-3111, ext. 215
Heather Torpy
Vice President, Marketing &

Bill Riley Talent Search