One year to the day after Lee DeWyze’s “beLeevers” crowded into the Arlington Park racetrack to wish him luck on the "American Idol" TV show, crowds huddled there again Saturday in a cold rain to cheer a new northwest suburban star.
Fans of the smoky-voiced Wheeling songstress Haley Reinhart, 20, hope for the same fate met by Mount Prospect’s DeWyze, who won the contest two weeks after basking in his home crowd’s adulation.
Supporters in Wheeling watched Reinhart grin and wave from a red Mustang convertible during the soggy parade that preceded her racetrack show.
Kallie Phipps, 10, strained to glimpse her hero.
“I’ve been wanting to see her since the day she tried out,” she said.
When the parade ended at the Wheeling village hall, the potential Idol with the broad smile was mobbed by fans chanting her name. Village President Judy Abruscato answered by declaring May 14 to be Haley Reinhart Day.
“I expected a couple of people to show up, but not this,” Reinhart said. “You made a dream come true. I thank you from the bottom of everything I know.”
Support for Reinhart has been less unanimous among the show’s judges and viewers. Idol stalwart Randy Jackson’s assessments have swung from wowed to skeptical, though Aerosmith frontman Steven Tyler has lived in a state of near-perpetual awe over Reinhart.
She has survived weekly cullings of the field, but TV audience voters have repeatedly placed her in the bottom three contestants.
Like DeWyze before her, Reinhart’s success has galvanized local fans. A pack of Stevenson High School students arrived at the race track at 3 p.m. and waited several hours in the cold and rain.
“We’re dedicated!” said Ari Craven, 17, of Buffalo Grove.
Reinhart’s performances have drawn comparisons to British pop star Adele, but fans have also seized on her rendition of “House of the Rising Sun,” popularized by The Animals in 1964.
Reinhart treated the crowd at Arlington Park to that song as well as The Beatles’ “Oh! Darling,” local blues classic “Sweet Home Chicago“ and other tunes Saturday night.
If Reinhart escapes elimination Thursday, she will go on to the season’s final results show May 25.
Tribune reporter Dan Hinkel contributed.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun