120 contestants perform at ‘American Idol’ audition, hoping to be next Clay Aiken

Photo by William Woody—American Idol contestants prepare themselves backstage Saturday afternoon during an American Idol audition at Ashley Furniture Homestore. 120 contestants tried out for a chance to travel to Austin Texas to audition in front of an American Idol producer.

Photo by William Woody—Grand Junction resident David A. Bad sings “Life After You,” by popular artist Chris Daughtry on Saturday afternoon during an American Idol audition at Ashley Furniture Homestore.

In the showroom of the Ashley Furniture Homestore, seated in folding chairs, plush love-seats and sofas, hundreds of friends and family watched and supported 120 brave contestants of an “American Idol” audition.

In a room adjacent to the stage, contestants steeled themselves mentally in preparation, often peering around the corner to view the crowd and the five judges reviewing the strength and singing quality of each new act.

Fox’s “American Idol” is one of the most-watched talent competitions in the world. According to Randy Stone, general manager of KREX Channel 5 and CBS FOX4, almost 200 similar auditions are taking pace across the country, the first step in what Stone calls “a life-changing journey.”

Continuing the journey will be audition winner Shae Bramer, who had to wait until KREX’s 10 p.m. newscast to learn the news.

Bramer will compete Aug. 11 in a higher “American Idol” audition level in Austin, Texas. From there, the goal is to reach the national audition in San Francisco.

Many of the contestants competing Saturday had waited in line since Thursday to have a single, 30-second opportunity to showcase their singing voice. Amid the mahogany living-room sets on a small sound stage, songs from iconic artists such as the Eagles and James Taylor were performed.

Alena Ruiz and her brother, Dallas, competed early in the competition, and both felt their strategy of singing older, familiar songs helped make them feel more comfortable on stage.

Alena went first and had the crowd cheering with her rendition of a classic Etta James tune, “At Last.”

“I like the old, classic songs, and I thought they (the judges) would relate to them more,” Alena said.

Dallas followed and performed a slow, crowd-pleasing version of “Amazing Grace.”

“I’ve actually performed that song in public before, so I was comfortable singing it,” he said. “Whoever was the least nervous is probably going to win.”

After the 120 contestants finished their auditions, the group was narrowed to 20.

Stone said FOX4 put in its application to host the audition to Fremantle Entertainment, the owner of the competition, months ago, and since they found out three weeks ago, his staff has been busy preparing.

“It’s been a very tedious process. ... There are strict rules we have to follow,” Stone said.

“We’ve had a lot of talented kids show up. It’s very wholesome, straightforward competition,” he added.

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