This article was published in the Lenoir News-Topic.

If you’re the type to grouse that “kids these days” are all the same, you probably haven’t been to Kaleidoscope.

All 23 acts at Saturday’s talent showcase, sponsored annually by the Education Foundation of Caldwell County, were bursting at the seams with personality.

One of them, Mary Morrison, is just 9, but she isn’t shy about performing onstage.

She’s too sassy for that.

“I just get inspired when I dance,” Morrison said Friday, after rehearsing a dance solo set to Chelsea Staub’s “Fabulous.”

The song is jam-packed with attitude, and that’s why Morrison chose it.

“I like that it has a lot of attitude in it,” the Granite Falls Elementary fourth-grader said with a shrug. “You can be really sassy.”

Another performer, Hudson Elementary fifth-grader Lexi Summerlin, was marking her fifth year in the showcase.

She chose to sing “Wouldn’t it be Loverly” from “My Fair Lady,” after watching the classic musical on DVD.

“I really liked the way she expressed it — and her accent,” said Summerlin, who practiced her own Judy Garland-style Cockney accent for the show.

Other acts varied. Singers, cloggers and pianists took the stage. Everything from a slowed-down

piano version of One Direction’s “Little Things” to “Colors of the Wind” from “Pocahontas” drifted from the speakers.

Each act started at a school-level talent show. Each school in the county then sends six acts to Kaleidoscope’s judges, who select 23 to perform the night of the event.

There’s also visual art displayed in the hallways – paintings, sketches and sculptures from elementary-aged students on up.

It’s all aimed at celebrating the arts in schools, event organizers said.

“The focus, I think, on the arts, is crucial at a time when a lot of schools have to push the arts to the side,” said Ben Willis, who serves as president of the Education Foundation’s board. “An event like Kaleidoscope does a lot to encourage the arts in schools.”

It was the hope of the adults at the foundation, and the adults in the audience, to promote the arts in a broad, future-facing way. While in the past, that’s meant the winning acts’ schools receive $500 from the foundation, this year every school participating received that amount.

But the kids did them one better.

It wasn’t about the future when Davenport School second-grader Zerden Keller strutted across the stage in a leather jacket singing Bob Seger’s “Old Time Rock and Roll.” It was more than a concept when Hudson Middle’s Jayne Hollar cartwheeled across the stage to the tune of “Popular” from “Wicked,” and when the South Caldwell show choir threw the final dance move of their “Eye of the Tiger” performance.

All of them, plain and simple, were celebrating.

Right then.