‘America’s Got Talent’ favorite brings ‘dream’ to Delavan

Indoor kite flyer performs for students before Sky Circus on Ice

By Vicky Wedig


When Michigan native Connor Doran was 14 years old, he went to a kite show as a spectator in Bend, Ore.

“Somebody put a single-line kite in my hand, and I loved it,” said Doran, 21, who was in Delavan over the weekend for the Sky Circus on Ice. “I couldn’t get enough of it.”

Connor Doran, who placed 12th out of 90,000 competitors on NBC’s “America’s Got Talent” for his indoor kite-flying act, performs at Phoenix Middle School on Friday.(Photo by Vicky Wedig)
Connor Doran, who placed 12th out of 90,000 competitors on NBC’s “America’s Got Talent” for his indoor kite-flying act, performs at Phoenix Middle School on Friday.(Photo by Vicky Wedig)

Three years later, Doran wowed Sharon Osbourne, Howie Mandel and even the ever-critical Piers Morgan with his indoor kite-flying performance on NBC’s “America’s Got Talent.”

After finishing 12th out of 90,000 competitors in “America’s Got Talent,” Doran and his mom, Amy Doran, took their kite-flying along with messages of anti-bullying and epilepsy awareness on the road with their Dare to Dream campaign.

The Dorans shared their message at St. Andrew Parish School and Phoenix Middle School on Friday before Delavan’s first Sky Circus on Ice, which brought professional kite flyers and snow sculptors to frozen Delavan Lake.


Kite launch

Doran said he was 14 years old – the same age as the Delavan middle schoolers for whom he performed Friday – when his interest in kite flying was piqued.

After that first show in Bend, Ore., in April 2007, he went to a show in Portland, Ore., about two hours from his home in Olympia, Wash. A short time later, Doran was returning to Michigan for his grandfather’s funeral, and a kite show was happening nearby in Grand Haven, a small town on Lake Michigan. Competitors he’d met invited him to spend the day at the show where he learned to fly a four-line kite outside. He entered his first competition in August 2007, when he was in eighth grade.

Back in Washington, Doran said, he heard about an indoor show going on in Camas.

“I had no knowledge of indoor flying,” he said. “I had no intention to compete.”

He did compete, and placed third.

About a year later, Doran said, he wanted to try something new and saw his mom flying an indoor “Rev” – a four-line indoor Revolution kite. He asked to give it a whirl, and began practicing daily in November 2008.

In January 2009, he won his first indoor kite-flying competition.

“Things kind of rolled from there,” he said.


Road to Vegas

Scott Weider, a professional kite flyer from Rhode Island who Doran says taught him everything he knows about kite flying, appeared on “America’s Got Talent” first. His performance flopped when his kite tangled and collapsed and all three judges X’d him.

Doran, then 17 years old, begged his mom to send a videotape of his kite flying to NBC. Amy Doran said, not a chance.

“He came to me and said, ‘I want to try out for ‘America’s Got Talent.’ I said, ‘No, you don’t,’” she told Phoenix and Our Redeemer sixth-graders. “Too many things can happen. What if something goes wrong? I was afraid.

“I didn’t want to do it. He kept bugging me. I really didn’t believe that he had the dream so big in his mind, and he bugged me until I couldn’t stand it anymore.”

Amy Doran finally sent his video in and presumed the matter would be settled – and her only son’s dream quashed – when he received no response from the national network.

But, about a month later, an email popped into Amy Doran’s inbox that read, “To Connor Doran from the producers of NBC.”

“I said, ‘Connor, get out here, now!’” she said.

Together, she and her son read the email that said, “The producers at NBC have watched your video, and we think it’s stellar.”

Connor Doran said the producers called and said, “We’re very impressed,” and invited him to an open audition in Portland. He said the open audition is not in front of the judges but determines who will move on to the show.

“You can tell if they’re interested in you for the show or not,” he said.

Doran said it was apparent they were interested in him.

“His dream was coming true,” Amy Doran said. “But the scary part was yet to happen.”


Soothing flight

Exacerbating the typical parental fear of their children failing or getting hurt was the fact that Amy Doran’s son has epilepsy.

He was diagnosed with the seizure disorder at 4 years old and was having 30 to 40 seizures a day at that age, she said.

“The thought of letting him go on television and take a chance was scary to me,” Amy Doran said.

But Connor Doran said kite flying soothed his anxiety and gave him confidence.

“People don’t really know what kite flying is about,” he said.

He explained to students at Phoenix Middle School that indoor flying – without wind – uses inertia, movement and energy, to fly the kite.

Doran said the stage at “America’s Got Talent” was quite small, which made indoor flying difficult. He said he was nervous before his turn on stage when X after X from the judges rattled the building.

“I was expecting to get X’d,” he said.

About 30 seconds into his performance, Doran said, he was absorbed in his craft and not nervous at all. He heard no X buzzes – only the roar of the crowd shouting “Vegas! Vegas!”

By the end of his stint, set to Sarah McLachlan’s “Angel,” he said, Sharon Osbourne was in tears, and Howie Mandel said Doran inspired him.

Even Piers Morgan, whom Doran said is known as the “mean judge” liked it.

Doran showed Phoenix students the clip from his appearance on the show.

Morgan began his review of Doran’s performance saying he expected to laugh at the act – a bullying practice the Dorans’ message discourages.

“It was one of the most extraordinary things I’ve ever watched,” Morgan said.

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