CONWAY, Arkansas — You know that saying about being a big fish in a small pond? It’s totally true.
Everywhere we’ve gone over the past 24 hours in Conway, there’s Kris Allen. From the remarkably lifelike cardboard cutout created by one of the founders of the Kris Allen Kick Awesome Task Force to a flier for the “American Idol” viewing party tonight at the basketball arena at his alma mater tucked into a to-go meal at the local Chik-fil-A, Allen is everywhere in his hometown.
You can spot the local volunteers trying to hype tonight’s watch party by their green fingers, stained from the signs they spent all morning handing out to local merchants reminding townspeople to attend the big rally. Even Mayor Tab Townsell proudly sported one of the green “Conway Arkansas Backs Kris Allen” T-shirts that could be seen bobbing up and down the city’s main drag all day.
Hell, you don’t even have to be Kris Allen to get in on the action. From the steamy rooftop of Michelangelo’s Italian Ristorante — where one of the owners complimented me on my “dark horse” story touting Allen as a possible spoiler this year — to the Mexican/Italian joint where we ate lunch and the church where Allen is a worship leader, New Life, the good people of Conway appear to have embraced MTV’s coverage of their hometown hero’s saga. It’s a humbling experience to have strangers come up to you and thank you for something nice you wrote about one of their own.
And make no mistake: When asked if Allen could possibly win the “Idol” competition, every single man and woman we talked to said, “You bet.” Allen’s definitely getting a taste of the Los Angeles life, but you can rest assured that when he returns to his loft in downtown Conway, he’ll really get the star treatment.
At the very least, Townsell said, he’ll get a key to the city. “But that’s not nearly enough,” he laughed. “We’ll have to think of something better.”