‘American Idol’ finalist Caleb Lee Hutchinson’s hometown visit (photos, video)

Caleb Lee Hutchinson and his mom Piper greet fans during a parade on Main Street of Dallas. CREDIT: Rodney Ho/rho@ajc.com

Posted Tuesday, May 15, 2018 by RODNEY HO/rho@ajc.com on his AJC Radio & TV Talk blog

Caleb Lee Hutchinson was the star of Paulding County Tuesday, receiving honors at his alma mater South Paulding High School and downtown Dallas.

ABC’s “American Idol” cameras were there to capture the events with highlights set to air on Sunday night. He is competing with Maddie Poppe from a small town in Iowa and Gabby Barrett from outside Pittsburgh.

The pep rally at his school he graduated last year went smoothly as the band and cheerleaders loudly welcomed him along with more than 2,000 rambunctious students in the stands, including hundreds bused in from the local elementary school. Many wore Caleb-embossed T-shirts handed out free from three local printers. Others held up huge oversized photos of Caleb’s face with plenty holding posters saying “Vote Caleb!”

He sang a couple of songs and humbly thanked them for their support, reminding them to vote early and vote often Sunday night to help him win the “Idol” crown.

NOTE: ABC’s “American Idol” cameras were there to capture the events with highlights set to air on Sunday night on WSB TV Channel 2.

The parade in Dallas down Main Street drew thousands of fans, many who arrived hours earlier to nab good spots on the sidewalk. The one eatery on the street Sal’s Pizza had lines out the door. And the pharmacy ran out of bottled water. Turnout was comparable to what the more elaborate Christmas parade draws in December and I’m sure the “Idol” producers were heartened by the crowd size, which will look great on the show.

Harley Fuller and Chloe Strickland, two close friends of Caleb Lee Hutchinson, came back to their high school to cheer their friend on at the pep rally. CREDIT: Rodney Ho/rho@ajc.com

Tyisha Fernandes and two Channel 2 Action News photographers at the pep rally. CREDIT: Rodney Ho/rho@ajc.com

Caleb Lee Hutchinson arrives at the pep rally for him. CREDIT: Rodney Ho/rho@ajc.com

Caleb Lee Hutchinson soaks in the adulation at his pep rally for “American Idol.” CREDIT: Rodney Ho/rho@ajc.com

Harley Fuller meets his friend Caleb Lee Hutchinson after the rally. CREDIT: Rodney Ho/rho@ajc.com

Caleb Lee Hutchinson meets some local elementary school students. CREDIT: Rodney Ho/rho@ajc.com

Caleb Lee Hutchinson with the Spartan mascot for his alma mater. CREDIT: Rodney Ho/rho@ajc.com

Caleb Lee Hutchinson waves goodbye at the end of his rally. CREDIT: Rodney Ho/rho@ajc.com

South Paulding High School teacher Lindsey Davis helped organize the Caleb Lee Hutchinson pep rally. CREDIT: Rodney Ho/rho@ajc.com

A sign of support in downtown Dallas for Caleb Lee Hutchinson. CREDIT: Rodney Ho/rho@ajc.com

Thousands showed up to the parade and concert in downtown Dallas for Caleb Lee Hutchinson. CREDIT: Rodney Ho/rho@ajc.com

After giving away 600 t-shirts at the pep rally, Devin Harding was hawking shirts for the parade. CREDIT: Rodney Ho/rho@ajc.com

Velvet Clay of Rockmart visited the parade and purchased a “Hutchpuppies” shirt to show her support for Caleb Lee Hutchinson. “He comes across as a genuine kid, he’s funny and he has a great voice,” said Clay, whose niece dated Caleb’s best friend Harley. CREDIT: Rodney Ho/rho@ajc.com

Thousands showed up to listen to Caleb Lee Hutchinson for a mini concert in downtown Dallas. CREDIT: Rodney Ho/rho@ajc.com

Lynn Walker of Dallas comforts her dog Gus during the concert. Caleb “has an awesome voice. He has a true voice and he’s unique. I also love how he lost all that weight,” she said. CREDIT: Rodney Ho/rho@ajc.com

Caleb Lee Hutchinson wades into the crowd after his concert in downtown Dallas. CREDIT: Rodney Ho/rho@ajc.com

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