Eight opera singers, three judges and $30,000 in prize money on the line should make for an unpredictable Sunday afternoon in Annapolis.

Annapolis Opera stages its 36th Vocal Competition at Maryland Hall this year, but upped the total awards by $10,000 thanks to a grant from Brad Clark, founder of the Maryland Lyric Opera near Washington, D.C. The event begins at 3 p.m., and admission is free.

The bigger prizes are the latest sign that the competition continues to grow in prestige, not only because of the money but also the chance to make connections with judges from the heights of the opera world.

“It has become much more so because people are willing to fly in from all over the country to compete,” said Kathy Swekel, general director of the opera.

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Getting to the finals is no easy feat. To compete, artists must be between 20 and 35 years old and citizens or permanent residents of the United States. This year, 321 singers submitted recorded works along with their applications.

A panel of judges winnowed that number to 32 semifinalists, who then submitted new recordings.

This year’s finalists are coming in from as far away as California, New York and Texas. Mezzo-soprano Ashlyn Brown, soprano Lauryn Davis, mezzo-soprano Ruby Dibble, bass-baritone Luke Harnish, tenor Wayd Odle, soprano Luna Seongeun Park, mezzo-soprano Maggie Reneé and bass Alan Williams will each perform two arias from a list of five they’ve submitted.

The grand prize is $6,500, but the potential to add on a people’s choice award brings the top award to $8,000. All finalists receive a cash award, which helps cover travel expenses, but there is only one grand prize winner.

“It’s whoever performs the best in front of the judges and the audience,” Swekel said.

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In addition to the money, the eight singers get the chance to make connections with the judges. This year’s judges for the finals are Justina Lee, a music instructor at the Julliard School in New York; Craid Kier, artistic director for the Annapolis Opera; and Lee Anne Myslewski, vice president of opera and classical programming at the Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts in Vienna, Virginia.

“This puts these young people in front of people who can advance their careers,” Swekel said.

After winning last year’s competition, Winona Martin signed with the Washington National Opera as a member of the Cafritz Young Artist Program.

Here’s a look at other great things to do in the coming week.

Season finale

8 p.m. Thursday

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Colonial Players wraps up its 75th season with a performance of “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time,” a 2003 novel adapted for the stage in 2015.

Drew Saint Amour leads the cast as Christopher, a 15-year-old who is brilliant at math but not life. He tries to solve the murder of Wellington, a neighborhood dog. The show is directed by Steve Tobin.

It runs through May 18, with performances on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights plus 2 p.m. Sunday matinees. General admission tickets start at $26 plus fees, with discounts for seniors, full-time students and active military with an ID.

Run a Guinness Mile

11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday

Guinness may have shut down its Baltimore-area plant, but it’s still around in spirits. This year’s Annapolis Irish Festival at the Anne Arundel County Fairgrounds includes the Guinness Mile, with a pint served for every quarter-mile lap completed, starting at 3:30 p.m.

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The event is considered family-friendly despite that and the whiskey-tasting tent. There’s lots of Gaelic music, dance, food, Irish-themed vendors and activities involving men in kilts.

Tickets start at $25 in advance, $30 at the gate. Children under 12 are free but require a children’s ticket. Tickets are non-refundable.

A little bit of art

5-8 p.m. Saturday

The Annapolis Arts Alliance set the theme for this year’s Petite Squares Exhibit as “Make a Splash” and invited artists to submit up to four original interpretations of water-related subjects.

The trick with this show, though, is that size matters. Works accepted for the monthlong show at Wimsey Cove Gallery on Chinquapin Round Road must be no larger than 1 cubic foot. The exhibit opening includes a reception for artists and continues through June 1.

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Admission is free, with pieces priced individually for sale.

First Sunday returns

11 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday

The popular First Sunday Arts Festival returns for its 23rd season with artisans, food vendors and live music. The festival shuts down the first block of West Street from Church Circle to Calvert Street, and Calvert Street between Clay Street and West Street in front of People’s Park.

First Sunday continues monthly through November. Admission is free, with food, craft and art for sale. Parking is available at the nearby Gott’s Garage (use the Northwest Street entrance) and the Whitmore Garage.

Cinco de Mayo

11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday

Is it just me, or are there a lot of festivals this weekend?

The Maryland Fiesta Latina returns to the Anne Arundel County Fairgrounds for the first time in five years, sweeping out the Irish festival at the same Crownsville site one day earlier.

This year’s event coincides with Cinco de Mayo, a Mexican holiday celebrating victory over France at the Battle of Puebla in 1862 — although the U.S. makes it mostly about Mariachi bands, tacos and tequila.

The fiesta includes local and regional music groups, dance, artisans’ displays and food. Tickets start at $10, with add-ons for a tequila tasting. Children under 12 are free but require tickets.

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Guitar hero

7:30 p.m. Tuesday

It must be guitar week at Rams Head on Stage. Four of the five artists performing are guitarists. The other is a pioneer of heavy metal, which is also a guitar thing.

Only one gets a rare two-night show: jazz fusion legend Al Di Meola.

His Electric Years Tours was put on hold last summer when the 69-year-old suffered a heart attack on stage in Romania. This summer’s rescheduled performances revisit his days with Chick Corea and Return to Forever. It leads up to the July 19 release of “Twentyfour,” Di Meola’s second album of Beatles interpretations.

Tickets are $70. A Wednesday show was added, but only a few seats remain for each.

Rick Hutzell is the Annapolis columnist for The Baltimore Banner. He writes about what's happening today, how we got here and where we're going next. The former editor of Capital Gazette, he led the newspaper to a Pulitzer Prize for coverage of the 2018 mass shooting in its newsroom.

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