Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

AMERICAN IDOL AUDITION SIGN-UPS; 7,000 Dreams Start Here Thousands Line Up before Dawn for Chance to Compete on Show

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

AMERICAN IDOL AUDITION SIGN-UPS; 7,000 Dreams Start Here Thousands Line Up before Dawn for Chance to Compete on Show

Article excerpt

Byline: ROGER BULL

Before daylight, the crowd stretched down the road, around the corner and out of sight. They slumped in chairs, they slept on blankets, but every time a video camera or a microphone appeared, they burst into song.

Registration for Wednesday's American Idol auditions opened Monday morning with thousands in line outside Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena.

Patrick Lynn, the show's senior producer, said he expected about 3,000 or 4,000 by that time of the morning. But as 7 a.m. rolled around, he figured there were more than 7,000 already in line.

"The South," he said, "has really delivered this year."

They weren't supposed to start lining up until 6 a.m. Monday. But they couldn't wait. They were already in the neighborhood anyway.

The Mallari family flew in to Jacksonville from San Diego on Thursday so that 19-year-old Cherilyn could sign up. They spent a couple of nights on the steps of Old St. Andrew's Episcopal Church across the street.

Sunday night, they went to sleep on the grass next to the arena, waiting.

Michal Kent was the first to step up Monday morning. She'd been hanging around since Thursday, too. About 11 p.m. Sunday, she took her spot: the first in line.

When the Mallaris saw her in line, they moved over from their spot in the grass, bringing their luggage with them. Then more came, and more.

The street in front of the arena was closed, filled with TV trucks from Orlando, Tampa and Miami as well as Jacksonville.

As the sun came up, the line, sometimes a dozen people wide, stretched away from the arena, down Duval Street, back around the baseball stadium and on to the football stadium. And they came from all over.

Kent, a 25-year-old single mom from Okeechobee, said her reason was simple:

"I don't want to be in the future and think that I woulda and shoulda," she said. "I don't want to be another statistic in Okeechobee, having babies and doing drugs."

She works at a McDonald's back home, but she's also studying to be a truck driver, in case the stardom thing doesn't work out.

The Pattin twins, Lynnette and Antwanette, flew down from Toledo, Ohio. They look alike, they dressed alike and plan to audition together.

"We always sing together," said Lynnette, a 27-year-old accountant. "I think we started in the womb."

She wants to sing a song that she wrote, but if the judges want something more familiar, she said, then it might be a song by Deborah Cox or Whitney Houston.

Chris Leveridge, 19, came up from Sebring, got in line at 4 a.m. and was still three blocks from the arena. He auditioned last year in Miami and made it past the first round. But it ended there. So he's trying again.

"It has a lot to do with being from a small town," he said. "There's a lot of talent there, but there's not a stage for it to be heard. …

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