Area vocalist spreads the joy around
MONTROSE – Since 1945, Montrose has hosted the Watermelon Festival featuring free watermelon, town-wide yard sales, food, crafts and entertainment. The festival opens at 5 p.m. Thursday and Friday, Aug. 18, and after the parade on Saturday, Aug. 19.
Again this year, a talented singer from the Tri-State area will provide part of the entertainment, performing on Saturday night. Kathy Dye will perform from 7 to 9 p.m. on the festival stage.
Dye, 55, has lived in Donnellson since 1995. This will be her 13th time singing at the Watermelon Festival.
Dye performs material from several different eras and chooses a wide variety of songs, so there’s something for everyone to enjoy. Selections include the songs of Patsy Cline, Reba McEntire, The Carpenters, Lee Greenwood, Tammy Wynette, Loretta Lynn and more. She does a two-hour show and fits a lot of singing in that time frame.
Toward the end of her show, she commemorates veterans, who are very important to her.
Dye has been singing since about age 5. She remembers singing in church and all through her school years. She made the All-State choir her senior year. She sang in her hometown of Clarence, Mo., for the Homecoming in 1996. She got to sing with Linda Davis, Dolly Parton’s vocal partner at the time.
Dye sang in 1995 at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville for a national contest. She placed fifth out of 95 people in that contest. That was a memorable experience.
“It was absolutely amazing,” she said.
She also sang at Opryland Hotel, again for a national contest. Dye finished in the top three of the group of approximately 47 women and made it to semi-finals.
“It wasn’t huge, but very fun,” she said.
She performed at the Iowa State Fair for five or six years, as well as at Old Threshers in Mount Pleasant.
Dye even had a ticket to audition for “The Voice” television competition. But when she looked into it further, she found out that if she would make it pass the first round, she would have to miss a cruise she already booked with her family. So she backed out of “The Voice” audition, but she still thinks about it.
“I might try ‘The Voice’ sometime, but I have to work and pay bills,” Dye said. “And as much as I think I would have wanted to be a star, I get to pick out when and where I sing.”
Dye is a natural when it comes to singing and performing. She grew up with a very musical family. Her father, whom she never knew, was in a country western band. Her mother, Marilyn Kriner, sang with him in that band. Dye also has identical twin cousins from Clarence who play every instrument in the book. Her cousins eventually moved to Nashville, because they had high hopes of being a new set of twins in the country music world.
“Music has always been in our family,” Dye said. “Give me a mic and I’m at home as a person can be. I just love singin’.”
Dye has never taken any private music vocal lessons. She almost had one, but decided against it shortly after she arrived. Her teacher approached her during her senior year of high school and suggested she take music lessons. Dye decided to give it a shot. She walked in and the first thing the teacher wanted her to do was sing in front of a mirror. Dye was in the lesson no more than five minutes before she walked out. Singing in front of a mirror wasn’t who she was and she didn’t think that was what she needed.
Later, after Dye had made the All-State Choir, that same teacher came up to her and told her that she was so glad that she had walked out of her house, because she said she would have ruined her voice.
Dye’s performance at the Watermelon Festival includes distribution of Teddy bears to children. For her first hour of singing, the bears will line the front of the stage. Then, Dye will call all the kids to the stage (in age groups) to get a bear. The kids stay near the stage while she sings Barbara Fairchild’s “The Teddy Bear Song.”
The reason she hands out bears is mostly due to her mother, who happens to be her biggest fan. Kriner was a collector of anything that had to do with bears. At one time, they counted about 800 Teddy bear items in Kriner’s home. Kriner suggested her daughter hand out Teddy bears to the audience. Dye started with about 20 bears from her mom’s house, and it took off from there. During the first year she performed at the Watermelon Festival, there were about 50 bears on stage. The numbers have grown significantly since then. One year she threw out almost 700 bears at the Watermelon Festival parade and gave out about 140 teddy bears on stage.
Dye washes and dries each bear and repairs any that need mended. Every child receives a clean bear. If the bears are 12 inches or smaller, they are used for the parade. If they are bigger, they are distributed at the performance.
Dye goes to a lot of yard sales to look for bears. She also takes donations. Sometimes, the children who were in the audience of her performances and now are adults, give back their bear so Dye can re-gift it to another child. She also has posted on social media sites that she’s in search of Teddy bears. A Burlington man whose infant son had died noticed Dye’s social media post about looking for Teddy bears. He wanted to donate his sons’ Teddy bears to something worthwhile, and decided to donate them to Dye. That really warmed her heart, Dye said.
Dye plans to continue singing and entertaining as long as she is able.
“For me, it’s just singing and sharing a talent with people that enjoy hearing it,” she said.
One of her favorite memories is when she got to hand her 4-year-old granddaughter her first Teddy bear.
While Dye is performing, she loves to watch the kids walk by eyeing the bears, trying to pick out which one they’re going to want.
“It’s so heartwarming,” she said. “You see the kids’ eyes light up and it’s awesome to see.”
Sometimes moms bring their babies to Dye for her to hold while she sings.
“I’ve become the ‘bear lady,’ and I’m OK with that,” Dye said. “This festival is the only place I’ve done the bears in such a big extent, because it worked out well there from the beginning.”
To donate bears of any and all sizes, bring them to the Watermelon Festival or contact Dye on Facebook or at 319-835-5821.
Dye said she appreciates the public’s support. She loves to sing and hopes she will always be able to represent the Tri-State area as a local talent