Staff Report

Las Vegas headliner Terry Fator — a ventriloquist, impressionist, singer and comedian — will entertain during the Chumash Casino Resort’s annual Toys For Tots fundraiser at the Samala Showroom at 8 p.m. Friday, Dec. 14.

A portion of the proceeds from the event will be donated to the Central Coast Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots Program, which serves children in Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties.

Fator, the 2007 winner of “America’s Got Talent,” collected his $1 million and went on to sign as the headliner at The Mirage hotel and casino in Las Vegas with a five-year, $100 million contract, one of the largest entertainment deals in Las Vegas history. He’s still performing at The Mirage, but he also takes his act on tour to selected cities across the nation.

Fator’s ventriloquism career began when he was in fifth grade. While researching for an assignment, he came across a book about ventriloquism and started learning about it.

Before he became famous for his ventriloquism, he toured as the lead singer for a band called “Freedom Jam” in 1987-88. The group performed at more than 200 high schools and middle schools across the United States and Canada.

In 1988, he was the lead singer of a show band called “Texas the Band” and incorporated his puppet Walter T. Airedale into his shows. When a record label representative came to hear the band, he told Fator that he had to stop doing impressions and wanted him to sing in his own voice. Fator tried it for a few weeks and hated it. He preferred to do impressions and eventually left the band.

He performed as comedian and ventriloquist for many years with little success. He was discouraged and contemplated pursuing another career, but his family encouraged him to continue.

In 2007, Fator made his first appearance on “America’s Got Talent” in the competition show’s second season. He assumed he would appear for a few episodes to gain exposure that might help him get future gigs. Instead, he won the contest.

Tickets for the show are $49, $59, $69, $74 and $79, available at the casino or at