Hopefuls were instructed to prepare for a slower number and a more up-tempo tune, then to take part in a group dance.

 Winter boots were left at home in favor of cowboy boots a recent Sunday afternoon on Concordia College's campus. Singers from various regional schools gathered in the Hvidsten Hall of Music to audition for this summer's annual production of the Medora Musical, in Medora, N.D.

A musical has been held every summer in the Burning Hills Amphitheatre for the past 49 years, about three decades before those trying out were born. Still, the show's reputation is strong with the young performers.

"I love it. I've seen it pretty much every year I've been alive," said Eric Morris, minutes before he sang.

Hopefuls were instructed to prepare for a slower number and a more up-tempo tune, then to take part in a group dance.

"Nice song," show producer Curt Wollan said after Carolyn Schmitz belted out the Dixie Chicks' "Wide Open Spaces." After she followed with a version of Patsy Cline's "Crazy," Wollan nodded behind the camera he used to tape all of the tryouts. "She's good. I like her," he said. "I hope she can dance."

After all eight participants took their turns singing, they changed into dance wear and returned to learn moves from choreographer Lexie Wollan, Curt's daughter.

"Shuffle. Heel. Paddle turn," she called out, leading the group of two men and six women. Later they would go through the steps in smaller groups as Curt taped them.

"Smile," he told them, gesturing to the room as if it was the amphitheater. "There's 1,800 people out here who can't wait to see you dance."

"I always get nervous with the dance part of it," said Sasha Yearwood. The North Dakota State University sophomore has been to the musical in the past with her family but looked forward to maybe being part of this year's show.

As the potential stars left, he said those who made the cut would be notified by noon on Feb. 14 whether they are one of six men and six women to get a spot on the Burning Hills stage.

The Moorhead audition is just one of four, including one closer to Wollan's Minneapolis home and tryouts in Bismarck. Wollan will soon head to Memphis, Tenn., for an audition expected to draw 1,000.

There was one thing the artists hadn't counted on at the Moorhead audition — an audience with the First Family of Medora, former North Dakota Gov. Ed Schafer and his wife, Nancy. Ed's father, Harold Schafer, started the Medora Musical.

The Schafers are friends with Wollan and decided to sit in on the auditions.

"It's fun," said Ed. "I have no idea how producers sort out all of the talented voices."

While they weren't judging the talent, they weren't entirely hands-off. A noted musician, Nancy was recruited to play piano when one performer auditioned before the scheduled accompanist arrived.