In one of my all-time favorite movies, Dan in Real Life, Steve Carell plays Dan Burns, a widower who writes a weekly advice column for the local newspaper. In the movie, Dan takes his three young daughters to a family gathering at his quirky parents' rustic, beautiful, well-lived-in home on the shore of Rhode Island. Joining them are Dan's grown brothers and sisters, their children and a few extra guests. During their visit, the family endures all of the hilariously loveable moments that come from cramming a giant family into a single home for an extended period of time. There are meals that go not-quite-as planned, less-than-ideal sleeping arrangements and a family touch football game that gets a little bit too competitive. The highlight of the visit, though, is when the family puts on an intimate talent show that will leave you humming the tune of Pete Townsend's famous song, "Let My Love Open the Door," feeling nostalgic for a time when gathering with family was safe and easy, and possibly wondering what your hidden talent might be. 

For some people, their talent is obvious from early on.  There are those among us who seem born to do certain things, and it's astonishing to watch them effortlessly put their gifts into motion.  Then, there are people like myself, who have always had to work a little harder to just be average at things that seem to come easily to everyone else. 

In grade school, I played every sport imaginable, but I never shined at athletics. In high school, I dabbled in art classes for the first time, but it was glaringly obvious that I was no Picasso. 

It wasn't until I was in college that I realized that I had a knack for writing. People told me I had a natural gift with the written word, but I still doubted myself and it would be years until I had enough courage to try and make a living out of doing what I love most.  

This year, the holidays are going to be different for many families. A lot of us are opting out of spending time together in the traditional sense, and it's leaving us all feeling a little despondent. As a way to lighten everyone's spirits, Illinois Times has partnered with the Springfield Area Arts Council to host a virtual talent show. While there are no auditions, there is a small entry fee to help raise funds for the Springfield Area Arts Council. So whether you throw a football better than Joe Montana or more like Charlie Brown, or if people have told you that your singing voice is sort of like singing, but...different, we want to see what you've got!

As Elon Musk likes to say, "Talent is important, but heart is better," and if there's one thing Springfield has, it's heart. Entry information can be found at

and we look forward to being dazzled by your one-of-a-kind, spectacularly unique talents. 

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