Rion Paige, 12, wins Texaco Country Showdown North Florida finals at SOSMP


This 12-year-old Jacksonville singing sensation will represent North Florida radio station WQHL The Big 98.1 and the Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park Sept. 8 at the state finals to be held at the SOSMP! She may be only 12, but Rion Paige of Jacksonville, Fla showed judges July 13 she has what it takes to be the Texaco Country Showdown North Florida overall winner. Rion won over nine other acts to move on to represent WQHL The Big 98 Radio Station and the Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park (SOSMP) in Live Oak, Fla during the Florida Texaco Country Showdown Sept. 8. Coming in as first runners-up was the brother and sister duo of Nick Kirby and Ashley Kirby Starling of Live Oak. Second runner-up was Nalani Quintello of Orange Park. Doing an excellent job as emcee for the evening was WQHL The Big 98 DJ Stevie D. Rion will compete against five other winners at the state contest Sept. 8 at The Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park. If she wins the state contest, she will move on to one of five regional contests where one winner from each region will head to Nashville and the Ryman Auditorium in January 2013 to compete on the former Grand Ole Opry stage for the national title of Best New Act in Country Music and $100,000 in cash! “I was absolutely astonished to learn I had won,” said Rion from her Jacksonville home. “I didn’t think I was going to win…there was such great talent there!” As all the contestants lined up on stage to hear the judge’s verdict, the audience went wild when it was announced Rion was the winner! With a look of calm on her face until she realized she had won, Rion bounced about the stage celebrating with other contestants congratulating her. Her parents, sitting in the audience with Rion’s grandmother and 3-year-old brother, quickly recovered from apparent shock and began celebrating also. Rion said it is hard to decide which win is the biggest event she's been involved with. But she believes the Texaco Country Showdown and being selected to perform during the 2012 Suwannee River Jam have to be at the top of the list! “This is the first really big win for me, but the Jam was also,” this talented young lady exclaimed. “That was big (the Jam), and it was on my 12th birthday when I performed!” But, Rion stated, she is elated about winning the Texaco competition after competing with such talented artists who performed in the Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park’s Music Hall on a Friday the 13th no less! Competitors were asked to come back on stage after the contest and perform throughout the evening. When Rion and her family left, Rion said she began posting on her Facebook page about the win so her friends and family in North Florida and in Ohio would know she had won. “I got lots of love from that posting,” she said with her usual great enthusiasm. “I felt like I was on Cloud 9!” The vivacious Rion, whose beautiful, long, curly hair and ginormous personality makes her stand out in any crowd, is not new to public performances. She has performed at The Landing in Jacksonville, the Columbia County Fair, Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park and the Suwannee River Jam to mention just a few of her recent North Florida performances. When asked how this all started, she’s quick to say it began with family, a very important part of her life. “Every day at 5 p.m. my mom would turn off the TV when I was about 3, we had music, and she and I would sing,” Rion recalled. Singing together as a family while traveling in their car continues today with Rion’s little brother now joining in. Although Rion is hoping to make that January 2013 trip to the Ryman Auditorium, she’s already made her first trip to Nashville. “I went to Nashville when I was 11 and took my Boombox, set up on a corner street and sang! I made $40!” she exclaims with glee. This experience, near the Ryman Auditorium where the Grand Ole Opry was originally held, gave Rion a deep yearning to be on that stage one day performing. While she was in Nashville, she performed in several places, including the Nashville Palace. She’s been involved with country great Linda Davis in Davis’ Stage/Performance 101, a company Davis started to help performers and everyday people with performance application. Oh, and when she’s not performing, attending school at a Jacksonville school for the gifted or getting ready to perform, Rion is writing a book! There’s that ginormous personality again! Rion hopes all her friends, family and fans will travel to Live and the Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park Sept. 8 to cheer her on during state competition where if she wins, she’ll take home $1,000! Meanwhile, Rion will be among Jacksonville and other area artists performing at the SOSMP July 21 in the Music Hall for an evening of music with "Your Favorite Artists." That event begins at 8 p.m. in the Music Hall. More information on the Sept. 8 statewide Texaco Country Showdown at the Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park will be available soon. Watch the SOSMP website at for more. If you would like to make reservations for RV parking, cabins, primitive or camper parking for the Florida Texaco Country Showdown Sept. 8, call now to make sure you get a good spot. You may call the Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park at 386-364-1683, email or go to You may also contact the SOSMP to inquire about any of the many exciting events coming up such as the 2-day music festival to raise funds for North Florida flood victims with more than a dozen artists, vendors and an auction Aug. 17-18, Labor Day, Florida Texaco Country Showdown finals, Magnolia Fest featuring such artists as Bonnie Raitt, Del McCoury Band and Emmylou Harris, Spirit Kids Music Camp and Bobby Lee Rodgers Guitar workshop, Raid on the Suwannee Civil War Re-enactment and many other wonderful events this year. See the SOSMP website for more information. The Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park is located at 3076 95th Drive 4.5 miles north of Live Oak, Fl off US 129 at the famous Suwannee River. The park is 4.5 miles south of Interstate 75 and 4.5 miles north of Interstate 10 off US 129. Keep an eye out for the SOSMP sign and white painted board fence!


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