If you go
What: Craig Concert Association’s annual Talent Show
When: 7 p.m. April 23
Where: Moffat County High School auditorium, 900 Finley Lane.
— The concert is free and open to the public.
It’s a song that took Bill Ronis about 10 minutes to write, but it was more than 17 years in the making.
On Saturday, the 56-year-old Ronis walked onto the Moffat County High School auditorium stage with a guitar and foot-operated tambourine in hand.
He played two songs to audition for the Craig Concert Association’s annual Talent Show. He was one of 16 performers to do so Saturday and one of 22 total auditions for the April 23 performance.
After sitting down, the first song Ronis decided to sing was a personal re-telling of an accident that took the life of a close friend.
He calls it “Damn Fog.”
“Why the song just came out ago a month ago, I don’t know,” he said. “But, it did.”
As first light shined through heavy fog onto the Northern California coast in 1994, the crew of a boat radioed into the U.S. Coast Guard for help. The crew had washed ashore and were “calling in, ‘We’re on the rocks — we’re dying,’” said Ronis, who flew search and rescue helicopters in the Coast Guard for 20 years.
So, Ronis’ good friend and fellow Coast Guard serviceman Mike Gill got in a helicopter with three other rescuers and flew to the crew’s aide.
They arrived where they thought the boat was, but as the helicopter lowered to 35 feet above the water’s surface, they still couldn’t see anything due to fog.
As the helicopter took off to relocate, it clipped a fog-hidden cliff.
The accident killed all four in the helicopter. Ronis got the news more than 200 miles off the coast of Mexico.
“As soon as I got home, this lieutenant walked up to me and gave me a zip-locked bag with my buddy’s wallet and his wedding ring and said, ‘You have to give this to … his wife,’” Ronis said. “It was a tough thing to do.
“That’s what the song is about … getting the news of the crash, then getting home and having this guy give me a Ziplock bag with everything he had on him, you know?”
Gill was 36 when he died and both he and Ronis had 2-year-old daughters at the time.
He played the song for the first time Friday night at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4265. It felt good to sing it off his chest after so many years, he said. And, Saturday’s performance was even better, he said.
“I think that’s why part of the words are ‘This is a story I need to tell,’” said Ronis, who has been playing guitar since he was 10 years old.
It was a story he needs to tell and a song he needs to sing to honor those he served with who were willing to put their lives on the line to rescue and protect others, he said.
“It was like you have to go out and do your best to save these people and if you die doing it, well that’s the whole thing … the military thing,” he said.
“I don’t know how good of a song it is, but at least I am telling that story about my friends and telling people about it. I’ll never forget him and this will be a way that I never forget him.”
There was other talent showcased Saturday, too.
Craig resident Stephen Ghirar-
delli played one of the first songs blues legend Muddy Waters ever recorded — “I Be’s Troubled,” a song about a girlfriend departing.
Ghirardelli said he has auditioned and performed in the Talent Show for five years.
“There is a lot of variety and really talented people in Craig,” he said. “This is a good way to find out about it.”
Some of the talent, Ghirardelli said, comes from the younger generation.
Ronis said the auditions served as an annual check-up on Craig’s budding artists.
One performer stood out to both men — Caitlin Harjes.
“Like Caitlin, for instance — we’ve watched her in the last several years just, well … she’s just good,” Ghirardelli said. “That girl before her — they are all really developing. It is scary getting up on that stage for those kids.”
Ronis agreed, adding that someday he believes Harjes “is going to be really something.”
“Both Steve and I were just sitting there blown away and were saying, ‘God, look at how far she has come,’” he said.
The 14-year-old Harjes was a little more modest about her audition performance of “Standing Still” by Jewel.
“I just think it fits me the right way,” she said. “It fits the way that I sing the most and I just enjoy singing it. To have a song that you actually enjoy singing is really nice.”
Despite having played guitar for four-and-a-half years and singing since third grade, Harjes still gets jitters on stage, she said.
“It is nerve racking at first,” she said. “I think once you get through the song, like in the middle of the song, you kind of get used to it and so you just relax and end up singing the song you know.”
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