It was a homecoming like the city has never seen before.
An estimated 15,000 to 20,000 people lined the downtown and poured onto the playing fields at Beverly High School on Saturday to welcome home Angie Miller, the 19-year-old who has gained fame as one of the final three contestants on “American Idol.”
Fans stood on rooftops, clamored atop cars, climbed stepladders and leaned out windows to get a glimpse of Miller as she rode in a white Mustang convertible in a 1.3-mile-long parade from City Hall to the high school.
The joyous caravan arrived to a huge crowd spreading across the grass and up the hill for a concert at the high school, where just a year ago Miller was a student who, she said, “wasn’t even popular.”
“Hi,” Miller said as she walked onstage, appearing stunned by the sea of signs and faces. “I can’t believe this.”
The day’s events were choreographed by Fox TV, which each year stages hometown visits for the final three singers on “American Idol.” A camera and sound crew followed every step of Miller’s high-heeled black boots.
But there was nothing fake about the enthusiasm for Miller in her hometown, and the young star seemed genuinely touched by the reaction. In an interview during a visit to Centerville School before the parade and concert, Miller said she was “overwhelmed by the support and love I didn’t know existed.”
“I’ve been in the ‘American Idol’ bubble,’” she said. “I didn’t even know what to expect. I’m so overwhelmed. I feel like this is home.”
Miller’s long day, which ran an hour or more behind schedule, included a morning stop at Jaho. The Salem coffee shop is a favorite spot for the Miller family, which includes her parents, Guy and Tana, who are co-pastors at the Remix Church in Salem.