Kris Allen’s hometown abuzz with pride over ‘American Idol’ finalist

Kris is “American Idol” finalist Kris Allen.

The platform is next week’s season finale when the worship musician from Conway, Ark., will duel San Diego’s Adam Lambert for the title of America’s most viewed and talked about reality show.

The prayer comes on the part of Matt Carpenter, director of the Chi Alpha ministry at the University of Central Arkansas where Allen was enrolled. Allen has worked as a worship pastor for Chi Alpha and Conway’s New Life Church.

“I pray for Kris that this doesn’t change him,” Carpenter said. “It really doesn’t need to. I think Kris feels God has entrusted him with everything he needs in life. It’s an incredible feeling to see him use his gifts and talents for God’s glory.”

The initial amazement over seeing someone you know gain fame so quickly has passed, but the excitement associated with it hasn’t.

“Around church, overall, everyone is really excited,” explained Brandon Shatswell, New Life’s worship pastor. “The past couple of weeks more and more people around church began thinking that Kris really is going to win. There is more of an expectation that it is going to happen.

“It’s not quite the same as earlier on. It’s not the same shock factor as at first of seeing someone you know in that position. It’s not as unbelievable to people.”

Shatswell has spoken to Allen since advancing to the final.

“He said, ‘Dude, I never thought it would end up like this,'” Shatswell said. “In post-show interviews I saw where he said the (final three of himself, Lambert and Danny Gokey) would all have good careers. I think that’s true and he knows that’s what this is really all about is having that great start to a career, but yeah, he’s excited to have a chance to win.”

Allen saw the depth and breadth of local support when he returned home last weekend.

Sonja Keith is part owner of 501 Advertising and Publishing and member of the Kris Allen Kick Awesome Task Force comprised of local business and community leaders. The group had a large role in working with American Idol production staff in pulling off the visit, which drew large crowds at several locations.

“I was at several events Kris attended and I heard him say more than once, ‘This is nuts,’ Keith said. “He was taken aback and surprised by the reaction. Kris is a pretty humble person and had no concept of the amount of support people were sending his way.”

The galvanizing of local support is something remarkable to see to for Rachel Dickerson, who has covered the story in recent weeks for the local newspaper, The Log Cabin Democrat.

“The turnout for the homecoming was pretty incredible, and I don’t think that’s an exaggeration,” Dickerson said. “For the story I did I talked to people who waited outside the arena at UCA at 5 or 6 in the morning and waited all day to hear him play one song. The whole crowd demanded he played another song and he did. The parade through downtown was pretty wild, too.”

“Idol” host Ryan Seacrest mentioned to Allen and Lambert that 88 million votes were cast after Tuesday’s show with just one million separating the two of them. For Shatswell, the local show of support was more significant.

“To see the viewing parties every week and watch the hometown visit being planned with the number of people involved, I was just blown away,” he said. “To see that persistent effort and see people working their tails off for Kris who have no relationship to him outside of watching the show is remarkable.”

And as long of a journey it has been for Allen and Conway, this portion of it will come to an abrupt end Wednesday when either he or Lambert is crowned the champion. What happens next for Allen is a summer tour with other “Idol” finalists and an inevitable record deal. The hope for Conway in particular and Arkansas in general is a perceptual shift.

“I think this is going to have a long-term positive effect,” Keith said. “When I travel around the U.S. and especially outside of the country, most people associate the state with Bill Clinton. I think that may change and people will associate Arkansas with Kris. He is such a great ambassador for the community.”

Shatswell wasn’t quite as sure if Allen’s success would cause any long-term perceptual changes about Arkansas, but he echoed Carpenter’s hope that Allen remains the regular guy he knows him as.

“I’ve heard people say from early on that Kris is someone we can be proud of on any level,” he said. “That is for sure.”


Arkansas pastors shed light on ‘Idol’ finalist Kris Allen:

New Life Church:

Chi Alpha:

Kris Allen site at American Idol:

Conway Log Cabin Democrat photo gallery:

501 Life photo gallery:

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