Ken Kellar takes home grand prize at annual Quest for the Best singing contest

Elisa Nguyen
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

At the Sorting Gap Marina on Friday, judges announced Ken Kellar as winner of the annual Quest for the Best singing competition hosted by the Fort Frances Chamber of Commerce. It’s held annually during the Fort Frances Canadian Bass Championship (FFCBC), thanks to major sponsor The Window and Door Store.

Kellar performed “The Power Of Love” by Huey Lewis and The News, took first place in set one, then faced off in a duet of the Rick Astley hit “Never Gonna Give You Up” with Dave Miller who took first place in set two for his performance of “Sometimes I Don’t, Sometimes I Do” by his nephew TJ Miller.

After the battle song duet, judges Diane Maxey, Mike Andrusco, and Callahan Armstrong said it was a very close contest. In the end, Kellar was announced winner of Quest for the Best 2023, walking home with a grand prize of $1,000 and a trophy with a figurine of a microphone — a mini reminder of the night’s thrilling performances.

“Performing a Quest is always a lot of fun,” Kellar said. “I feel very grateful and humbled to be picked as a winner because there’s a lot of really great talent in this town.”

Kellar took home the grand prize once before around 10 years ago.

This year, Kellar chose to sing “The Power Of Love” for its upbeat and energetic sound. He says it was also a song he really wanted to perform with the backing band “The Faculty.” While Kellar has performed with his guitar in the past, this year he focused on singing.

He recalls the last time he performed a duet in Quest in 2015 when he faced off against Katelyn Shortreed singing “Eye of the Tiger” by Survivor. “Shortreed is an amazing singer so she handed me that loss fair and square,” Kellar said.

Ken Kellar’s performance of Huey Lewis & The News’s “The Power Of Love” helped propel him to win this year’s Quest for the Best. —Allan Bradbury photo

At this year’s duet, Kellar says both him and Miller had similar vocal ranges making it an even showdown and difficult decision to make for the judges. “I honestly, I was not sure which way it was going to go at the end of the song,” Kellar said.

The entire night is a blast, but if he had to choose one favourite moment, Kellar says he enjoyed performing his favourite hits for a lively audience, backed up by phenomenal instrumentalists and musicians from “The Faculty,” the backing band that learns over 20 songs in the span of a couple weeks before Quest.

“The backing band has done Quests for years and years and years,” Kellar said. “The band will just learn the song backwards and forwards in whatever key you have it set… you get one rehearsal with the band, the week of Quest, and then you run through your song one more time the day of like a soundcheck.”

“I really try to pick songs that I enjoy, ones that I jive with and that make me happy,” Kellar said. “And then I feel like I can perform well. Just getting up there and singing with the band — that’s always my favourite part when I’m involved in Quest.”

Nerves before performing are always at play, whether it’s for Quest for the Best or at open mics with his guitar. Kellar says he likes to use that energy to fuel up for the performance.

“There’s maybe hundreds of people out there in the audience and you want to do a good job, bright lights and loud music, and you’re not always guaranteed that things are gonna go your way,” he said. “But the fun that I have outweighs those nerves.”

“It’s such a good community event. And we really do have a lot of very talented singers in the district. And not always a lot of opportunities for those people to show off. So Quest is one of the biggest stages we have, and it’s always so fun to see what song people have chosen and how they’re going to perform it,” Kellar said.