4,000 show up for 'American Idol' auditions at CenturyLink Center

"American Idol" fans and contestants, including Sarah Sullivan of Great Bend, Kan., at right in yellow, cheer for the camera outside of the CenturyLink Center in Omaha on Sunday. Fans, contestants and supporters gathered at 5 a.m. and earlier this morning to await their chance to try out for the Fox program.


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You could hear the cheering from blocks away.

Ryan Seacrest could hear singing from his hotel room.

The noise came from about 4,000 people gathered outside the CenturyLink Center Omaha for a shot at “American Idol.”

Most arrived before dawn and sat on blankets, statues and the concrete to wait for auditions to begin. Some dressed down in jeans and T-shirts, and some dressed up for the camera in tight dresses, pink hair, cowboy boots, fedoras or bright sneakers. They traveled from far away, sang “Don't Stop Believing” for the cameras, danced to Robin Thicke's “Blurred Lines” and strummed the notes of “Viva la Vida” on guitars.

It was still dark, 4:45 a.m., when Zach Moore, 16, arrived at the arena. Moore strummed his guitar while he waited for the doors to open and auditions to begin. He traveled more than 150 miles from Cameron, Mo., but it was worth it.

“It's pretty close, so why not?” Moore said. “It seemed like a fun deal.”

Moore and the thousands of others were hoping to get in front of “Idol” producers and — eventually, at a later date — the judges.

“Idol” host Seacrest was on hand for the auditions. Before entering the arena, Seacrest greeted a few auditioners and wished them luck.

“I love this part of it,” Seacrest told The World-Herald. “I love a chance to travel around the country and get to meet the contestants at this stage — before anything has happened, before they've had a chance to get into the Hollywood transformation.”

He recalled his first meeting with Carrie Underwood, who at the time had never been on an airplane. “In that moment I didn't think that she would become the Carrie Underwood that she became, but to look back and look at that transformation is pretty incredible.”

The host said hello to three friends — Brandi Moral, 23; Kaylee Kershner, 20; and Sarah Sullivan, 21 — who came from Great Bend, Kan., for the chance to audition.

Dressed in identical yellow lace dresses and flowered headbands, the three friends drove straight through the night and hadn't slept.

“Every time, it's so exciting,” said Moral, who has auditioned for “American Idol” every year since 2008.

“I'm nervous,” Sullivan added.

“And I'm nervous for them,” said Kershner, who was there to support her friends.

The three women were picked out of the long line to stand with other good-looking people and those with interesting looks. That group stood in front of the crowd for audience shots planned for the “American Idol” broadcast.

With the audience gathered, producers and directors guided them through cheers and chants such as “Welcome to Omaha,” “Go Big Red,” “This is the heartland of America” and “This is 'American Idol' ” as the camera swung overhead. Producers had the crowd cheer at least a dozen times, and the audience also sang Selena Gomez's hit song “Come and Get It” for the cameras twice.

Some of those shots will be used on shows broadcast beginning in January, and producers also used the shots to pick out interesting people.

“There's somebody in there — I just know it,” said “Idol” producer Patrick Lynn. “There was somebody in there last time we were here, and his name was David Cook,” the season seven winner of “Idol” who auditioned in Omaha.

After more crowd footage was captured, the thousands in line were ushered into the arena, where more footage would be shot and the auditions would finally begin.

Deondre Hayes, 18, was ready to hit his audition, where he planned to sing “Crazy” by Gnarls Barkley. He had already been noticed by producers and placed on camera, and he hoped his enthusiasm would push him through the singing competition.

“The secret to 'American Idol' is to give it everything you got,” Hayes said.

After auditions, some left the arena with tears in their eyes, upset that they weren't chosen, and many were greeted with hugs by friends and family.

Travis Baehr, 19, was one of the few who advanced through the auditions to what's called the “Winner's Circle.” The Lincoln resident sang “Valerie” by Amy Winehouse. Then producers asked him if he knew any boy-band songs, so he also sang “Little Things” by One Direction.

Producers dismissed the other singers in Baehr's audition group, but they pointed him out and held him back.

“I was so surprised, and I was breathing hard,” he said.

Baehr, who has been singing as long as he can remember and spent his high school years in theater, was excited to tell his family.

“My confidence level is way up,” Baehr said. “I am so pumped to come back.”

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