Lauren Alaina's Big Day In Chattanooga, Fort Oglethorpe

Saturday, May 14, 2011 - by Wendy King
Lauren Alaina
Lauren Alaina
- photo by Wes Schultz

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
Performing at Coolidge Park
- Photo2 by Wendy King

City Of Chattanooga Public Works Revises Refuse Collection Center Policy

The City of Chattanooga’s Public Works Department is revising the policy at the City’s Refuse Collection Centers and upgrading technology to continue to provide this crucial service to citizens and to reduce improper use of the center by some landlords and contractors. Currently, all landlords and contractors are not permitted to dispose of items at the Refuse Collection Centers ... (click for more)

Chattanooga Police Department Increases Traffic Enforcement Efforts

Chattanooga Police are working to change driver behavior and address traffic violations throughout the city. Increased enforcement efforts by CPD’s Traffic Unit addressed infractions on I-75, I-24, Highway 153, and Highway 27 on Wednesday.  The increased enforcement is conducted in areas determined by data models generated through CPD’s Crime Analysis Unit and complaints ... (click for more)

Dallas Bay Firefighters Save Home After Kitchen Fire, But 2 Dogs Die

Dallas Bay firefighters saved a home from burning to the ground on Saturday afternoon. Around 1 p.m., the homeowner called 911 reporting a house fire located at 1856 Cotter Road. Dallas Bay Volunteer Fire Department responded and arrived on the scene reporting heavy smoke pouring out the front door. Dallas Bay VFD requested a mutual aid response for Red Bank Fire Department ... (click for more)

Man, 39, Shot Late Friday Night In The Vicinity Of North Chamberlain Avenue

Police said a 39-year-old man was shot late Friday night in the vicinity of North Chamberlain Avenue.   He was identified as Ruben Williams Sr.   Officers with the Chattanooga Police Department were informed just before midnight that a shooting victim arrived at a local hospital via personal vehicle.   Officers made contact with the victim who advised ... (click for more)

CVB Should Share Financials With The Home Folks

The recent debate over the Convention and Visitor's Bureau's funding and budget has gotten ugly. A Hamilton County commissioner has asked questions and made comments about the CVB. The director of the CVB has organized a campaign to dismiss the commissioner's questions and comments. The children on the playground are choosing sides and nothing useful seems to be happening. It's ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Trump's Latest Delight

I was quite amused this week when Donald Trump’s administration “locked out” several news organizations from the daily press briefings at the White House. The reason I loved it because in the 50 years I have spent in the news business, I have been locked out of press conferences, too. To be truthful, I am a longtime veteran of a bunch of “you versus me” squabbles and, if I do say, ... (click for more)