05/21/2008 AT 11:00 AM ET
David Archuleta returned to his native Murray, Utah, for a big hometown welcome that included TV and radio interviews, an autograph party, a rally with over 10,000 fans and his singing “The Star Spangled Banner” before a sellout Jazz vs. Lakers playoff game audience.
At 8 a.m., Archuleta stepped out of a black limousine with a characteristic shy grin and wave to his fans at Fox affiliate KSTU. “My gosh. I wasn’t expecting everyone to be here. I thought I was just coming in to a studio,” said the 17 year-old finalist. He later sang Dolly Parton’s “Smokey Mountain Memories.”
Fans at Salt Lake City s Gateway Mall AT&T store numbered about 2,000 when Archuleta arrived to sign photos of himself on the stage.
Ten thousand fans filled Murray High’s football field for the afternoon rally. They wore orange and black tee shirts proclaiming, “Murray Loves David Archuleta.” The man of the hour rode in on a white convertible with his mother Lupe Archuleta. Utah governor Jon Huntsman issued a proclamation declaring May 9 as “David Archuleta Day.”
“I’m going to sing a few songs,” Archuleta said, before launching into “Stand By Me.” Amid audience screams at the end of the first song he said, “I hope you guys enjoyed that. I’m giving it the best that I can. I want to keep Murray proud. I didn’t know how many were supporting me here at home.”
The other remaining Idol contestants, David Cook and Syesha Mercado, also made trips home.