The excitement in the air in downtown Oklahoma City on Friday was as palpable as the Oklahoma summer humidity when about 10,000 people crowded Thunder Alley, ready for their chance to be the next “American Idol.”
It was audition day for the Fox TV talent show, and the crowd started gathering as early as 2 a.m., though the festivities didn't start until about 7 a.m.
That's when camera crews boarded cherry pickers, key grips hoisted their microphones on boom stands and “American Idol” host Ryan Seacrest made his first appearance to shoot footage for the show.
“I love you, Ryan!” several people shouted from the star-struck crowd. Seacrest smiled, waved,talked with people and kept a cheerful, energetic attitude during the shots.
Senior supervising producer Patrick Lynn, bullhorn to mouth, shouted instructions to the enormous crowd.
“Look at the camera! Don't look at me! Signs up! Cellphones down!” he boomed. He prompted the group to shout several phrases as cameras swept the crowd.
“In three, two,” he said he as he counted down. He then mouthed the word “one,” prompting the crowd to shout in unison: “Welcome to Oklahoma City!”
“I'm Ryan Seacrest and this ... is ‘American Idol,'” Seacrest said, the city skyline in the background. “Are you ready, Oklahoma City?”
“We're ready, Ryan!” the crowd shouted back.
“It's so exciting I want to cry. This is something that is absolutely the greatest dream ever, so if I get through, I don't know how I'm going to react. It's going to be crazy,” said Kaitlyn Lanoy, 18, of Guthrie.
She had a prime spot in the front row of the enormous group.
“This is exactly why we do ‘American Idol,' to see a group like this come out with so much excitement and enthusiasm,” Seacrest said in a news conference before auditioners were let into the Chesapeake Energy Arena. “I'm guessing that we're going to find some good talent.”
Jessica Chitwood, 27, of Moore, said she hopes she'll fall into the category of “good talent” and get a callback for Round 2 of auditions.
“It's my last time and my first time,” she said, referring to the age 28 cutoff in “Idol” rules. The 27-year-old said she sang as part of a traveling evangelical mission for nine years and thinks her voice is much like Christina Aguilera's. For her audition, she said she'd sing “You Lost Me” by Aguilera.
With her flame red “rave shave,” self-described “fab goth” clothing ensemble, lock-and-key tattoo over her heart, fishnet tights and knee-high combat boots, Chitwood was definitely an original in the crowd.