Bits 'n' Pieces: Local 'Idol' semifinalist still kicking up her boots

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Britnee Kellogg is back on stage and tuning up for the Washington state finals of what could be a nationally aired country music competition.

Kellogg, 28, of Vancouver was among the 70 semifinalists invited to Las Vegas in February for the "American Idol" competition, but she failed to advance.

That didn't stop her though. The country singer and divorced mother of two just won the Portland-area competition for the Texaco Country Showdown.

She advances to the Washington state finals Aug. 5 at the Clark County Fair. The show is free with fair admission.

"I have been singing since I was little, and I love it," Kellogg said. "When I was 9, I bought Reba McEntire's cassette tape, and I just never put it down."

If she wins the state final, she will get $1,000 and advance to regionals, which include winners from a seven or eight state area. Winners of the regionals then advance to the national finals in Nashville on Jan. 17, when they will compete for the grand prize of $100,000, said Larry Wiater, marketing director for the competition.

"That competition will be recorded and will air nationally at a later date," Wiater said.

That's not all that Kellogg, who still has a day job at Regents Bank, is up to. She's also the opening act for Chris Young, a country star who'll be playing at the Sleep County Amphitheater in Ridgefield on Aug. 6 during the Clark County Fair.

"I've also auditioned for 'Idol' again," she said. "So hopefully, I'll know more about that soon."

While she waits, she will continue what she loves: entering competitions, she said.

"I think the biggest thing is just getting recognized and putting yourself out there," Kellogg said. "I just do everything I can to get my music in front of people." -- Sue Vorenberg

La Center school leader raises money for guide dogs

Refreshed is not a word you expect to associate with someone who has biked 2,400 miles in five weeks. However, La Center School District Superintendent Mark Mansell sounded not only refreshed but ready for more during a recent phone interview from Lapeer, Mich.

Mansell has since surpassed 2,500 miles and is fewer than 1,000 miles away from completing his goal of biking across America for Leader Dogs for the Blind. The Michigan-based nonprofit organization provides trained guide dogs for the blind free of charge.

Mansell has long since reached his main goal for the ride -- raising $35,000, the approximate cost of training one dog, for Leader Dogs. Mansell said on July 20 that he had reached $41,000 and was determined to exceed $50,000 before he finished his 3,500-mile trek in Portland, Maine, around Aug. 17.

"It's been a lot of fun," Mansell said. "I've met a lot of people."

Mansell credited the kindness of strangers who invited him into their homes for helping make his journey enjoyable. Mansell, a member of La Center Lions Club, has been honored by several Lions Club organizations on his trip, he noted.

While pedaling from coast to coast, one place has stood out in Mansell's mind: "It makes me appreciate what we have in the Pacific Northwest," he said, noting his affinity for Washington's trees and mountains.

Learn more at http://www.leaderdog.org.

— Ray Legendre

Bits 'n' Pieces appears Fridays and Saturdays. If you have a story you'd like to share, email bits@columbian.com.