When Lauren Alaina Suddeth arrived in Chattanooga on Friday night for the first time in almost three months, she was unable to sleep in her own bed at her Rossville residence.
Instead she settled for a few hours of slumber at an area hotel before embarking on Saturday’s whirlwind homecoming celebration befitting a top three American Idol finalist.
“She’s not just the pride of Rossville anymore, she’s the pride of America,” Rossville Mayor Johnny Baker said to the over 10,000 in attendance at Ms. Suddeth’s Coolidge Park rally while presenting her with the key to her hometown.
Ms. Suddeth along with remaining finalists Scotty McCreery of Garner, N.C., and Haley Reinhart of Wheeling, Ill., were treated to the cherished homecoming celebrations as a prize for being the top three contestants this season.
The 16-year-old pop-country sensation is less than two weeks away from possibly becoming the tenth Idol winner and the first female since Jordin Sparks four years ago to claim the coveted title.
“I’m so happy to be home,” she told the gathering, many of whom were wearing their new Lauren Alaina shirts that were sold for $20 each with proceeds benefitting her family for travel expenses to Los Angeles. “I’ve never enjoyed my hair frizzing out so much” in reference to the Chattanooga humidity.
She frequently thanked the audience for their support and repeatedly told them how much she loved them.
Ms. Suddeth sang excerpts of “Flat on the Floor” and “Anyway”, the latter of which she once again emotionally dedicated to those impacted by the April 27 tornadoes that have annihilated the region.
“I know I cry a lot, but I’m so sorry to see the devastation,” she said. Ms. Suddeth performed “Anyway” on last week’s top four telecast which propelled her to the final three.
An estimated four minutes of Ms. Suddeth’s homecoming footage including scenes from the aftermath of the tornadoes will be shown on Wednesday’s telecast when Ms. Suddeth will be singing three songs including the judges’ choice of “I Hope You Dance”.
Ms. Suddeth was also presented with the key to the city of Chattanooga by Mayor Ron Littlefield but she was especially touched by the gift of her portrait painted by 15-year-old Julia Maddalina of Rochester, N.Y.
Ms. Suddeth started her day with interviews at US-101 (WUSY) and at WDSI Fox 61 followed by a meet and greet at the Idol corporate sponsor AT&T Store on Gunbarrel Road, where an estimated 150 fans were able to briefly chat with her and get autographs.
She was then escorted across the Walnut Street Bridge by her Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe High School and Soddy-Daisy High School bands followed by numerous relatives who were riding in pedicabs.
The Taylor Reed Band accompanied by Ms. Suddeth’s vocal coach of five years Karen Alayne was the opening act for the Idol star.
The homecoming ran about two hours late due to production issues, but emcees Judge Russell Bean and Chattanooga Arts, Education and Culture Director Missy Crutchfield kept the crowd entertained as the excitement was building up to Ms. Suddeth’s arrival.
The weather also cooperated as earlier forecasts predicted a 30 percent chance of thundershowers but partly cloudy skies emerged with temperatures in the 70s.
After the Coolidge Park festivities, Ms. Suddeth was treated to her second parade as she traveled down Battlefield Parkway to a rally at LFO where she would see many of her classmates for the first time since she has become a celebrity. Ms. Suddeth has been tutored during her stay in Hollywood and is expected to meet graduation requirements sometime this summer.
Ms. Suddeth ended her very busy day by throwing out the ceremonial first pitch and singing “God Bless America” at the Tennessee Smokies-Chattanooga Lookouts game at AT&T Field.
Her mother Kristy reminded the Coolidge Park crowd to vote solidly for the two hours after Wednesday’s pivotal top three competition. If Ms. Suddeth advances to the final two, she would perform at the Nokia Theatre before a star-studded audience and get the keys to a Ford automobile.
Mrs. Suddeth joked that she has developed carpal-tunnel syndrome from voting so many times for her daughter.
Although Lauren and the other finalists, including Paul McDonald, the son of UTC’s Susan McDonald, will be starting their summer tour on July 6 in West Valley City, Utah, she has made one pledge.
“I’m coming home after (Idol) it’s over,” she said while encouraging her fans to follow her on Twitter at LAlainaAI10.
Perhaps, but life will never be the same.
Performing at Coolidge Park
- Photo2 by Wendy King