Krupar takes showdown crown
The drive from Rio Rancho to Socorro was relatively short for a man whose long-held dream is to become country music’s next big star.
Chris Krupar, 42, made the most of his trip and, after more than a dozen other acts had taken the stage, was crowned king of the Colgate Country Music Showdown on Saturday, Sept. 5.
Krupar, who had the crowd’s attention and applause from the opening chord of Jimmy Wayne’s “Do You Believe Me Now,” was speechless after the judges announced him as the day’s big winner.
“I’ve never won anything before,” a slightly disoriented Krupar said. “I just can’t believe it.”
While it took some time for the significance of the moment to sink in, the competition’s other contestants wasted no time forming a makeshift line to congratulate 2009′s winner.
“You were amazing — you really deserved to win,” said Las Cruces’ Christy Ann Jones.
Similar praise followed from at least 10 of the hopefuls.
Although Krupar arrived with a gameplan in place — play two well-rehearsed ditties — he got some last-minute advice that prompted him to try something different.
“Hey, someone just told me that I can earn extra points if I play an original tune,” Krupar was overheard saying as several hopefuls made their way to the stage. Krupar disappeared behind Kelly Hall and quickly ran through a song he’d written just three days earlier.
Twenty minutes later, Krupar’s name was called and the crooner stepped up and delivered.
After adeptly making his way through the Jimmy Wayne cover, Krupar began picking and singing “Just Kickin’ Back” — a song he penned on Wednesday.
“I couldn’t believe it,” he said after he finished his two-song set. “I was really nervous playing that one.”
His nerves continued to twist as seven more talented competitors took their shots at country music stardom in the annual event held during the weekend’s 60th Annual Socorro County Fair.
Lemitar’s Doug Figgs was among the final participants.
“Oh man, that guy’s really talented,” Krupar said as Figgs impressed listeners with his soulful singing.
The judges, too, had a hard time when it came to choosing a winner.
“That’s by far the most competitors I’ve ever seen here and boy, were they good,” 7th Judicial District Attorney and Showdown judge Clint Wellborn said. “I think that’s the closest it’s ever been in the race for first place.”
When the dust finally settled, it was Krupar who edged out Figgs to take the title.
“I was both surprised and excited to win,” Krupar said. “Considering that 17 acts came to Socorro to sing their hearts out, it was a tremendous honor to be selected by the judges.
Krupar said he was thrilled that the crowd responded so positively to his original song, “Just Kickin’ Back.”
Kicking back, however, is not likely on Kruper’s agenda during the next few weeks as he prepares for the challenge of the Colgate Country Music Showdown’s state competition, which will be held Saturday, Sept. 19, at Sky City Casino.
For Krupar, traveling the path from inspiration to implementation has been a long and fruitful journey.
Krupar’s introduction to country music began at an early age with — like many children of the 1970s — the popular television show “Hee Haw.”
It would be another 12 years before Krupar “fell in love” with country. In the interim, he took to the stage as a 12-year-old with his rock cover band. Two years later, he’d crossed over into the world of gospel music at the urging of his guitar instructor. That proved a harmonious relationship.
“I had the wonderful opportunity to share shows with some gospel icons like Scott Wesley Brown, Bryan Duncan and Randy Stonehill, among others,” Krupar said.
Since moving to New Mexico, Krupar’s country roots have been firmly planted. Along with his band, Open Road, Krupar was among the artists asked to play at the New Mexico Music Awards, where they opened for legendary Nashville artists like Deana Carter and Jimmy Wayne.
Most recently, Open Road entertained crowds at Albuquerque-based KRST Radio’s 30th birthday bash where the band’s sounds filled the same space as Randy Travis, Joe Nichols, Luke Bryan and Chris Young.
The next stage for Krupar is at Sky City, where he hopes to keep his dreams of country music stardom alive.
“I’m already excited and nervous about competing at the state level,” he said. “I hope to win, but regardless of the outcome I will continue to do what I love, which is performing and writing country music.”