published Sunday, October 16th, 2011

Lauren Alaina Suddeth returns to Fort Oglethorpe for Wildflower CD debut


by Andrew Pantazi
Lauren Alaina teases a shy Kelsey Anderson, 5, as she meets with Lauren to get her autograph Saturday at the Walmart in Fort Oglethorpe.
Lauren Alaina teases a shy Kelsey Anderson, 5, as she meets with Lauren to get her autograph Saturday at the Walmart in Fort Oglethorpe.
Photo by Jenna Walker.

  • photo
    Lauren Alaina hugs her cousin Rebekah Stephens, 14, after seeing her at Walmart Saturday at Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe, Ga. The second place star of last season's American Idol greeted, signed autographs and took pictures with over 1,800 fans for the debut of her new album, "Wildflower."
    Photo by Jenna Walker /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

  • photo
    Lauren Alaina waves to Mallory Langford while her mom, Delaine, smiles behind her during an autograph at Walmart Saturday in Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe, Ga. Lauren Alaina commented that Mallory was wearing a "Lauren Alaina outfit" complete with a sequined top and cowboy boots. The second place star of last season's American Idol greeted, signed autographs and took pictures with over 1,800 fans for the debut of her new album, "Wildflower."
    Photo by Jenna Walker /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

  • photo
    Abbi Askew, 10, and Lexie Grace, 7, sit inside of the upturned shopping carts used to create the line for Lauren Alaina's visit to Walmart in Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe, Ga., Saturday. The second place star of last season's American Idol greeted, signed autographs and took pictures with over 1,800 fans for the debut of her new album, "Wildflower."
    Photo by Jenna Walker /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Chandler Smith walked up to the blue line, feet together, head back, hands crossed.

In front of her, the biggest deal since she first listened to Justin Bieber.

Plus, Lauren Alaina's a local.

Chandler, the 12-year-old mouthpiece of her family, isn't known for her silence.

But seconds away from meeting her musical hero, the usually talkative girl fell silent.

"I'm going to let her do the talking," she said about her older sister Taylor.

The people in front of Chandler, Taylor and their mother, Jeanie, got their signatures and left.

Moment of truth. Chandler slowly walked in front of her sister and mother and up to Alaina.

"How are you doing?" Alaina asked.

"Good," Chandler half-mumbled, and she walked away with Alaina's autograph on the cover of the album "Wildflower."

The Smiths got in line at the Walmart on Battlefield Parkway in Fort Oglethorpe at 11 a.m. Saturday, and along with the other 1,600 people in line, waited hours before getting to meet the Rossville native who placed second on last season's "American Idol."

In front of the Smiths in line was Diane Vaughn, who said she hasn't been to a concert since Barry Manilow. On Saturday she got to meet other women she had only talked to before on Twitter and Facebook.

Vaughn (@DiVau4Jesus on Twitter) came to Fort Oglethorpe from Huntsville, Ala., and she had no idea that next to her in line would just happen to be Amy Braz (@Abraz25 on Twitter).

A few days before, Vaughn had tweeted to Braz that she was worried about driving five hours roundtrip and not getting to meet either Alaina or any of the other Alaina fans.

As it turned out, Vaughn met Braz, another fan and Alaina Saturday. And, as an added bonus, she met both of Alaina's parents, Kristy and J.J. Suddeth.

"I'm as much in awe of her mom as I am of her," Vaughn said.

Even though she didn't get to talk much with Alaina, Vaughn said she understood.

"Her time is so precious with her family," she said.

Walmart announced last Saturday that Alaina would be coming. By Monday, announcement posters were printed, and advertisements hit the radio.

Terry Williamson, the head of security for Walmart, estimates that anywhere from 1,500 to 2,000 people were waiting in line to meet Alaina at 1 p.m. today.

Williamson first met Alaina and her family about four years ago, he said, at Magoo's Restaurant on Ringgold Road. He's a guitarist in Southern rock band Bounty Hunters, and he played with her a few times before she went on "American Idol."

Now, his job is to keep all the fans at Walmart patient and peaceful.

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about Andrew Pantazi...

Andrew Pantazi is an intern at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who says that when he was 7 he knew what he wanted to do for the rest of his life: play hockey for the Colorado Avalanche. Unfortunately, he says he wasn't any good at hockey, so he became a journalist instead. He writes about the lives we hide, like the man who suffered a stroke but smiled, or the football walk-on who endured 5 ...

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chattanoogatazz said...

Ya the moms took the kids while us men watched some football!

October 16, 2011 at 4:03 a.m.
eastridge8 said...

We are SO proud of Lauren...just hope she stays the sweet, humble girl from N. Georgia and never ever forgets where she's from...Best wishes and God's great blessings to her always.

October 16, 2011 at 1:25 p.m.
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