American Idol’s Scotty McCreery (center) interviews with MIX 101.5’s Lynda Loveland & Bill Jordan to start off his quick trip home as a Final Three contestant.
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American Idol fans across the Triangle and the country focused on the small town of Garner on Saturday, May 14, 2011, as Final Three contestant and hometown country boy Scotty McCreery paid a whirlwind visit. FOX 50, WRAL-TV, WRAL.com and MIX 101.5 all worked together to capture every moment of McCreery’s tour for viewers and fans.
WRAL-TV waited at the airport to catch a glimpse of McCreery when he arrived via private jet the night before. WRAL-TV Anchor/Reporter Ken Smith got a quick interview through the airport security fence, and the fun began.
On Saturday morning McCreery and his padre of camera people, producers, handlers and security arrived at MIX 101.5’s studios in Highwoods for a brief interview with Bill Jordan & Lynda Loveland. Fans crowded outside for a glimpse of the country crooner.
“When I got my first good look at Scotty, I thought wow, he looks overwhelmed,” said Loveland. “Kind of like a deer in the headlights. His head must have been spinning from all the attention. I liked Scotty before I met him and now I really like him. He’s humble, polite, respectful, genuine and just downright cute!”
Garner’s Scotty McCreery started off his day back home with an interview at MIX 101.5.
McCreery went by an AT&T store, where he got a text that he’ll be singing Kenny Rogers’ “She Believes in Me” as the judges’ choice this week. He stopped by to bag a few groceries at his old employer, Lowes Foods, and also popped in at Garner Magnet High School where he is a junior.
WRAL.com Web News Editor Kathy Hanrahan was one of several staffers tag-teaming to cover the events of the day.
“Saturday was crazy!” she said. “I started my day at Lowes Foods, who put together this awesome display of cakes and cupcakes in his honor. It was designed to look like the Idol stage and was complete with a cardboard cutout of Scotty singing on top. It was really hard not to steal any of those cupcakes, as I was starving!
“The folks at Lowes were amazing,” she continued. “They were so proud to see Scotty do so well and were excited for his visit.”
Hanrahan captured still photography and videos of fans at Lowes and then walked more than a mile to Lake Benson Park.
“There were tons of Scotty signs at every turn along the way,” she said. “It was great to see so many fans so passionate about their hometown contestant.”
McCreery rode in a parade at Lake Benson Park. WRAL-TV Anchors Debra Morgan and Gerald Owens commentated for a live show airing on both WRAL-TV and FOX 50 as well as live streaming on WRAL.com. Various WRAL.com photographers snapped loads of photos, and MIX 101.5’s Lynda Loveland braved the crowds to bring live interviews from the middle of the action.
Some of the fans had been camped out since 10:30am for the 2pm parade and 3pm concert.
McCreery delights the crowd at Lake Benson Park with a concert, which WRAL-TV & FOX 50 broadcast and WRAL.com live-streamed.
“To have that many people in one place at one time, with a positive, singular focus, was amazing,” said Owens. “I liken it to the post championship for the Hurricanes. Everyone is rooting for this kid. I’m proud that we took the initiative to cover it the way we did. And while Scotty’s wonderful story isn’t as significant as, say Obama’s inauguration, it’s one of the more memorable events I’ve ever covered.”
Loveland was also amazed by the crowd.
“I can only imagine what was going through his mind when he pulled up for the parade,” she said of McCreery. “If his head was spinning before it must have been ready to pop when he saw the throngs of people. I don’t think I’ve ever been in a crowd like that. Extra security had to be called to keep the crowd back. Some of the security personnel told me people were clawing their way to the front of the crowd. They’d never seen that before. Maybe it was because he’s the hometown boy, but maybe it’s because he has the ‘It’ factor. Maybe he’s a superstar in the making. I’ll be watching…”
Hanrahan says she shot some videos of fans in the crowd doing their Scotty impressions and then set up for the concert.
A Word from the First CBC’er to Interview Scotty
WRAL-TV Anchor/Reporter Debra Morgan first chatted with McCreery long before he became the heartthrob of the nation. Here’s what she had to say:
We’ve been covering Scotty since the very beginning. I had the chance to interview him in February right before he found out he made it into the top 24 (see the interview here).
How wonderful to see how far he has come since then! He still seems so grounded. I had a chance to talk with Scotty again on Saturday (see the interview here).
He sincerely seems humbled and appreciative of all that has happened to him. His mom, Judy, was so proud Scotty still made the honor roll in the midst of all this!
Being at Lake Benson Park to watch the town of Garner welcome him home was incredible. He was overwhelmed by all the support and then Scotty put on a heck of a show. He showed so much personality you don’t always get to see on American Idol.
Scotty worked the crowd and sounded great! Randy Jackson (judge on American Idol) always talks about how he feels he’s at a Scotty concert.. and now we could be a part of it first-hand!
The surprise of Josh Turner joining Scotty on stage was priceless.
Saturday was truly one of the best assignments I’ve ever had! Being able to talk with Scotty and his family helped me be able to give insights for our commentary no one else had.
I believe we watched the next American Idol that day!
“I ended up shooting still photos from inside the middle of the crowd, but got great stuff,” she said. “As compared to other entertainment stories I’ve covered, this was the most devoted crowd I’ve ever seen for an artist who doesn’t even have an album out yet!”
Loveland agreed that the devotion of the crowd was amazing.
“I’ve never experienced anything like that before,” said Loveland. “I was in L.A. covering Clay Aiken when he was in the finals of American Idol so I really didn’t experience the excitement back here. I’m sure it was similar. But that was some crazy stuff at Lake Benson Park. People running across the park to follow him in the parade. It was like a stampede, a Scotty stampede!”
After the concert McCreery traveled to throw out the first pitch at the NC State baseball game. The game ended up being rained out, but McCreery and the team had fun slip-sliding on the tarp for the crowd anyway.
After some quiet time with his family, a limo took McCreery to his junior prom.
Tune in to FOX 50 this week to see if McCreery can make it to the Final Two! McCreery, Georgia’s Lauren Alaina and Illinois’ Haley Reinhart will sing three songs each for the Wednesday 8pm show. Then we’ll find out who makes it to the Final Two on the Thursday results show also starting at 8pm.
Thanks to WRAL-FM & to WRAL.com photographers Kathy Hanranhan, Lance King & Tom Miller for these capcom photos.