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Mt. Prospect is proud of Lee ... but is it ready for this?
By Sheila Ahern | Daily Herald Staff

Contestant Lee DeWyze performs during the "American Idol" Season 9 top 12 boys performance show on Feb. 24 in Los Angeles.

 

Photo by Michael Becker/PictureGroup

A sign in the window of Central Continental Bakery supports "American Idol" contestant Lee DeWyze, but Mount Prospect might not be able to afford a parade for him if he makes it to the top three.

 

Banners on the Blues Bar support "American Idol" contestant Lee DeWyze, but Mount Prospect might not be able to afford a parade for him if he becomes one of the top three finalists.

 

Bill Zars | Staff Photographer

Mount Prospect may not be able to afford a parade for "American Idol" contestant Lee DeWyze if he becomes one of the top three finalists.

 

Bill Zars | Staff Photographer

"American Idol" finalist Danny Gokey arrives at WITI-TV Channel 6 in Brown Deer.

 

Jack Orton/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel/Rapport Syndication

Fans greet American Idol Kris Allen at Riverfest Amphitheatre.

 

Season 8 "American Idol" winner Kris Allen makes his way across the stage in front of fans during a noon concert in May 2009 in Riverfront Park in Little Rock, Ark.

 

Courtesy of Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

"American Idol" finalist Danny Gokey fans wait for him at WITI-TV Channel 6 in Brown Deer.

 

/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel/

"American Idol" finalist Danny Gokey signs autographs at WITI-TV Channel 6 in Brown Deer.

 

/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Fans and Bucks cheerleaders turned out for a parade outside Milwaukee for Danny Gokey when he was a finalist on "American Idol," but Lee DeWyze, above, may not be so lucky despite having tons of support in Mount Prospect.

 

/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Kris Allen, winner of last season's "American Idol" greet fans at an AT&T store in West Little Rock.

 

Vino 100 in Mount Prospect shows support for "American Idol" contestant Lee DeWyze as he continues in the contest.

 

Bill Zars | Staff Photographer

Mount Prospect Paint roots for "American Idol" contestant Lee DeWyze as he continues on his quest.

 

Bill Zars | Staff Photographer

The celebration for "American Idol" contestant David Archuleta in Utah in 2009.

 

Real Deals Home Decor shows their support with a banner and sales of T-shirts for "American Idol" contestant Lee DeWyze as he continues in the contest.

 

Bill Zars | Staff Photographer

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Published: 4/27/2010 7:41 PM | Updated: 4/28/2010 8:06 AM

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Some days Bill Lagattolla fields 500 to 600 phone calls from Lee DeWyze fans. • A besotted group from Minnesota wandered into his store, Mount Prospect Paint, this week just to see where the "American Idol" finalist used to sell paint.

"I don't mind. He's our guy," said Lagattolla, the shop owner who employed DeWyze off and on for the past six years and today sells "Vote for Lee" T-shirts. • "It's been pandemonium, but it's been great."

Lagattolla hasn't seen anything yet and he knows it. • He's heard of those Idol hometown celebrations. • "I can't wait," he said.

"American Idol" hometown celebrations are given to the top three contestants on the show. If DeWyze, 24, makes it that far May 12, Mount Prospect will have a scant two days to throw together the daylong event, which attracts MTV, "Access Hollywood," People Magazine and anywhere from 5,000 to 20,000 fans.

Fox, the broadcasting company that airs "American Idol," won't discuss the parades, but former host towns said they've had to pay for security, setup and cleanup out of their own village budgets - which in one case cost $40,000.

Going into this week, DeWyze is among this season's final six contestants. If he survives three more weeks, Mount Prospect is looking at hosting a parade, concert and thousands of DeWyze fans May 14.

Mount Prospect started mapping out parade routes and looking into possible concert venues this week. Money will be a problem since the village has no "American Idol" budget and village officials won't know for sure if they'll be hosting the celebration until two days before the event, said Maura El Metennani, Mount Prospect's public information officer.

"We're super excited for Lee," she said. "This just isn't something we've budgeted for, so we're doing the best we can."

Fox won't talk to Mount Prospect officials until DeWyze is in the top four. District 214 spokesman Venetia Miles said the school district could help out and host a concert at Prospect High School or Forest View High School. DeWyze attended both schools but didn't graduate from either.

Meanwhile, people who have hosted "Idol" celebrations in the past have some advice for Mount Prospect: Start planning now.

Thousands of miles from Mount Prospect, Rondi Knowlton considers herself a Lee DeWyze fan.

"Lee is fabulous. He has a really good chance of winning," Knowlton said. "He'll get a hometown parade for sure."

It's too bad Knowlton doesn't live closer. She's the administrative assistant in Murray, Utah, and helped plan a celebration for David Archuleta, the 2008 "American Idol" runner-up.

While Murray spent about $16,000, Conway, Ark., spent more like $40,000, mostly on extra police and security, said Jack Bell, the assistant to the mayor. Conway is hometown to Kris Allen, last year's "Idol" winner.

"From a security standpoint, you'll need a lot," Bell said. "At one point, there were like 5,000 people trying to grab him."

Conway's population is 53,000, similar to Mount Prospect's 56,000. Both cities are also suburbs of larger cities, as Conway is about 32 miles north of Little Rock.

It helped that Allen's day included performances in Little Rock, Bell said. But about 20,000 people still crowded downtown Conway for Allen's hometown parade. There was some pushing and a few people got overheated, but no one was hurt and no one was arrested, Bell said.

"It was a mob, but it was a happy mob," he said.

"Idol" producers filmed the entire day, but only a few minutes made their national broadcast. Allen's concert consisted of only about three songs, since he had to compete a few days later in Los Angeles, Bell said.

When Milwaukee hosted a celebration for their hometown "Idol" contestant Danny Gokey last year, promoters used it as a chance to market their town. Gokey swung by the Harley-Davidson Museum and threw his arm about "the Fonz," the bronze statue of the "Happy Days" character in downtown Milwaukee, said Dave Fantle, spokesman for Visit Milwaukee, the tourism group that organized Gokey's day.

"Everywhere he went, there were screaming people," Fantle said.

And cameras.

"It was worth it, to be on the No. 1 show in the country," Fantle said.

Gokey had a parade that ended with a concert at Milwaukee's Summerfest grounds, before wrapping up the day singing the national anthem at the Brewers-Cubs game.

Two years ago Murray, Utah, hosted a parade around their high school football stadium before Archuleta's concert on the football field. The stadium holds 6,000, but more than 10,000 tickets went in record time, Knowlton said.

"People were standing everywhere; there weren't a lot of seats," she said. "But our local businesses helped out a lot. They passed out free water and bags of chips. Really, the whole community was involved."

After the concert, Archuleta was whisked away in a hot-air balloon to sing the national anthem at a Utah Jazz basketball game.

The same day, Blue Springs, Mo., hosted a hometown celebration for David Cook. After a Missouri State representative pronounced May 9, 2008, to be David Cook Day, he led a parade, performed downtown, appeared on television and visited his elementary school. He capped the day by throwing out the opening pitch at a Kansas City Royals game, said Todd Pelham, assistant city administrator in Blue Springs.

"The planning leading up to the day was pretty all-consuming." Pelham said.

Should DeWyze return for a hometown celebration on May 14, Mount Prospect will probably be forever be known as "The Hometown of Lee DeWyze."

In Blue Springs, they put up a mural and highway sign that reads, "Blue Springs: Home of David Cook." Many towns have hosted second celebrations after their "Idol" contestant either won or was voted off the show.

"People still remember that David was from here," Pelham said. "They ask about him all the time."

"We were only on TV for a few minutes," said Knowlton about her "Idol" day. "And it didn't show all the banners all over town or the million balloons we had everywhere. But it was a great day. I still have people ask me, 'Murray, that's where David Archuleta is from, right?'"

• DeWyze and the other five Idols performed Tuesday. One contestant will be voted off on Wednesday.

Proud: One town spent more than $40,000 on hometown visits