Scotty McCreery put the North Carolina town of Garner on the map. Now, the town is thinking of putting the places where the latest "American Idol" went to school, worked and prayed on a map as well.
A Michigan family went out of its way to stop in Garner on the way home from Myrtle Beach, S.C., at the behest of the teenage daughter, town spokesman Rick Mercier said Thursday, one day after McCreery won the Fox television talent search. In addition, town officials are hearing anecdotal stories of people wanting to see Scotty's hangouts for themselves.
"After that, we thought, ummm, maybe we should come up with a little map," Mercier said.
The map would include Garner Magnet High School, where Scotty is still a junior; First Baptist Church, which Scotty and his family attend; Lowe's Food Store, where Scotty worked as a cashier and bagger; the Garner Historic Auditorium, one of the first places Scotty sang in public; and Lake Benson Park, where Scotty performed a couple of weeks ago when "Idol" whittled down the contestants to the final three.
Scotty, 17, defeated 16-year-old Lauren Alaina of Rossville, Ga., another country crooner. It was the first all-country finale in "Idol" history, and the contestants were the youngest ever to compete for the title.
Signs of support remain in Garner, including one at the edge of town closest to downtown Raleigh that reads "This is Scotty Country." But at the Lowe's, where Scotty worked cash register No. 2 during his homecoming visit May 14, manager Terry Mascaro said the store is being "de-Scotterized."
Fans "started coming and grabbing a piece of whatever they could get" Thursday, he said, laughing. The posters are gone, and the Coca-Cola display that spelled out "Vote for Scotty" was being taken down Thursday. But he did put a one-of-a-kind, life-sized cutout of Scotty by the No. 2 cash register.
And other than a possible map, Garner has no immediate plans to capitalize on Scotty's fame until, perhaps, he comes home again. And folks are unsure when that will be because he goes on the "Idol" tour next, including a stop July 27 at the RBC Center in Raleigh, the same place where fans gathered for a watch party Wednesday night to see Scotty win.
"The 14th was our big opportunity to showcase ourselves," Mercier said, referring to Scotty's homecoming visit. "We've been told by other towns with `Idol' finalists that that's your chance to shine."
At Garner High School, reminders of Scotty remain, including small posters on the front doors advertising watch parties. In the chorus room, a framed picture with photos of chorus members from the previous school year still sits on the floor. Scotty is smiling in a photo to the left of his favorite teacher, Meredith Clayton, his bow tie slightly crooked.
As principal Drew Cook walked the hallways of the 2,200-pupil school Thursday, a student stopped him. "Hey, Mr. Cook. I'm going on `Idol' next year," the student said. Cook advised him to start practicing right away.
"That's the cool thing about this," Cook said. "They get to see one of their classmates who had all kinds of hopes and dreams, and his dreams came true right in front of them. They can see that if you work hard, you're talented and you do things the right way, you can be successful."
Martha Waggoner can be reached at http://twitter.com/mjwaggonernc