- Associated Press - Monday, October 3, 2016

POWELL BUTTE, Ore. (AP) - Not long after she turns 11 later this month, Powell Butte resident Molly Gaynor could sing for a rock concert-sized crowd.

Her mom, Yvette Gaynor, wonders how such a big voice can come out of such a tiny body. She suspects Molly gets it from her dad, Alec Gaynor, who she says sounds just like George Strait when he sings.

“It’s got to come from him,” Yvette said, emphasizing that it’s not from her.

Molly started singing for church at age 5 or 6.

“And we thought, little ones aren’t supposed to carry a tune that well,” Yvette said, noting how Molly projects, loud, from deep down.

The 10-year-old has since sung at various rodeos and a couple of other events.

“We realized, ‘Wow, she’s pretty good at it,’” Alec said. “She went out in front of 2,500 people and just belted it out at 6 years old.”

Molly’s now a finalist - along with two other children under the age of 12 - to sing the national anthem at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas in December. The 10-day rodeo features 120 contestants each night in seven events. It draws tens of thousands of people, plus a large TV-viewing crowd. It marks the culmination of the year’s rodeos, and Alec likens it to the Super Bowl of rodeo.

“It’s kind of a big deal,” Alec said. “It’s pretty cool.”

The anthem singing competition now relies on fans’ online voting, and anyone can vote through Thursday for contestants in child and adult categories. A YouTube video of Molly, taken during the July 4 St. Paul, Oregon, rodeo, shows the plaid-shirted, blue-jeaned 10-year-old in cowboy boots and hat singing the anthem in a strong, clear voice while standing in a dirt arena as a horse and rider circle with an American flag.

Molly’s parents submitted the video that has advanced this far in the competition thanks to votes from online fans and selection by a panel of judges.

Molly, who turns 11 on Oct. 10, says she loves singing the anthem.

“I always want to keep doing it because it makes people happy,” she said.

But this is the first time the family has entered a big competition like this. Otherwise, Molly leads a regular 10-year-old’s life on a 100-acre ranch in Powell Butte.

She helps tend the family’s animals - 45 cows, 32 calves, three horses, a bunch of chickens, four dogs, three cats, two rabbits, a guinea pig, two goats, one miniature pony and some catfish in a pond. Over the weekend, she helped vaccinate and wean the calves, sorting them from their moms and putting them in a holding pen where they get one vaccine up the nose and two others as injections in their sides.

She does children’s rodeo events and has reached a personal record of 16 seconds for goat tying - but she touts the faster speed of her younger sister, Mattie. She won a red ribbon for market and a blue ribbon for showmanship with her steer, Steve, during a 4-H Club event at the Crook County Fair over the summer. Steve ate the blue ribbon.

She’s thinking she wants to be a veterinarian and a singer. She likes all music except jazz, prompting her dad to guess that her jazz-loving grandfather was rolling in his grave. She leans toward country, pop and Disney songs, along with singers like Meghan Trainor, Taylor Swift and Miranda Lambert.

Alec likes the idea of someone from the tiny community of Powell Butte winning the national anthem event.

“A local ranch girl that has a chance to go big,” he said. “She’s the real deal.”

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The Bulletin: http://www.bendbulletin.com

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