Gokey nation: 'Idol' finalist returns to hometown as cameras roll, fans rockThey lined the streets, they chanted his name, they held their Danny Gokey signs high. Danny, Danny, DANNY, they cheered. And then he appeared -- a 20-something guy in patchy blue jeans, plaid shirt and really cool glasses. Milwaukee's shot at the "American Idol" crown was home.
By: By Jan Uebelherr, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Superior Telegram
They lined the streets, they chanted his name, they held their Danny Gokey signs high. Danny, Danny, DANNY, they cheered.
And then he appeared -- a 20-something guy in patchy blue jeans, plaid shirt and really cool glasses. Milwaukee's shot at the "American Idol" crown was home.
The "Idol"-orchestrated Danny Gokey Day began at 7 a.m. Friday at WITI-TV (Channel 6). By 7:50 a.m., the "American Idol" finalist had to know that he was really home: He was handed a big vat of Kopp's frozen custard flavor of the day, "Danny's Delight," which he happily chipped away at.
The stop at Channel 6 was just the first of a string of events throughout the day, staged for filming a segment for next week's episode of "Idol," in which each of the three finalists is profiled.
Fans started arriving at Channel 6 at 4:45 a.m.; they also were at other stops during the day as well, including a visit to the "Bronze Fonz" statue downtown.
But the big event for many was the free concert at Maier Festival Park.
Streets surrounding the grounds began to buzz with fans by 2 p.m., even though the grounds didn't open to the public until 4:15 for the 5:15 p.m. concert.
The street scene nearby resembled the gear-up for the Great Circus Parade. Coolers, Sno-cones, blankets, folding chairs -- the whole shot.
Heather Kehring stood at the curb with her three kids and her brother Jason Scheelk. She talked about what brought her here.
"He's a great singer, but he seems like such a good-hearted person. You can really tell he's not a faker," she said.
"I like his story," said Scheelk, referring to the recent death of Gokey's wife, Sophia. "His buddy's the one that pushed him to audition. I like that. It's heartwarming."
Sue Wetzel stood with a sign that said, "You R Already Our Winner."
"Danny just seems like a real genuine guy," she said. "I just hope he knows how much we really want him to win."
Nearby, Noreen Turowski wore a T-shirt that said "Cougar 4 Danny." She and a few friends had them made up.
"He's awesome," she said. "He's talented, and he makes us not look like cheeseheads. This is worth taking off of work for."
The Summerfest grounds filled fast once the gates opened. A marching band set the tone, and the Milwaukee Bucks cheerleaders were on hand, too -- not that the crowd needed to be stirred.
A contingent of eight girls from Greenfield Middle School came with two banners that took two people to carry. "Go Gokey for Greenfield Hawks."
Heather Dukat and Madison Kohl, both 12, took turns telling what they like so much about this Gokey guy:
"His glasses," said Dukat.
"His voice," said Kohl.
"And that he comes from here is so cool," said Dukat. "He's super sweet and nice. His personality -- he's cool."
A sea of handmade signs sprouted at the Harley-Davidson Roadhouse stage, where Gokey would perform.
"Ditched School for U Danny," said one sign.
"We love Gokey / He's no jokey," said another.
There was the shameless, "Kiss Me Gokey."
Lots of people gave in to the urge to play with the Gokey name. There was "Do the Gokey Pokey," and "Hokey Pokey Danny Gokey."
There was "Scream on," a reference to Gokey's legendary scream at the end of "Dream On" on Tuesday night's "Idol" competition.
There was "Grammas for Gokey" and "Twins Go Goo Goo Ga Ga for Gokey."
Someone held a sign saying, "There's an angel in heaven rooting for you!"
Mildred Colon wore a T-shirt that said "Viva Danny." She and her granddaughter, Jazlin Sawyer, gave Gokey a Puerto Rican flag as he arrived at the grounds in a convertible. Colon said she grew up with Gokey's mother-in-law.
"I met him when his wife was sick," Colon explained. "He's just a touching, humble fellow."
Some people made hand-held Danny Gokey masks out of photo cutouts attached to sticks.
Rachel Bronsted, 17, of Hartland came wearing a red plastic firefighter's hat and a sign that said, "Danny, You're on Fire!"
"I got the hat at school today, so it inspired me. The Fire Department came to the school," she said.
She explained why she's such a fan: "I think it's cool that he changes his glasses every week. . . . He's original. He's not trying to be like everybody else."
Her aunt, Dandy Weber of Stone Bank, chimed in: "He's just a good American boy," she said, then corrected herself. "Boy -- young man."
Seven-year-old Alyssa Mussfeldt did her best to come up with a sign. It said: "Wellkom howm." She made it herself. It took her "one day," she said.
With her mother's help, she described what she likes about Danny. "He's a very nice guy. He has cool glasses."
Rosalyn Stone of East Troy came up with two signs: "Welcome to Mil-Gokey, Wisconsin" (her niece, Marlena Stone, toted that one).
The other sign read: "Favre Who Gokey's our idol now!"
"He's definitely replaced Favre as the local hero," Rosalyn Stone said. "He's giving us hope and excitement and he's got good values. And he's a positive role model for the city. Plus, he can sing!"
As 5:15 drew near, the crowd grew twitchy. Finally, Gokey was there, and they flipped open cell phones to capture the scene, hoisted kids on shoulders.
The day wasn't without its problems. Gokey found it difficult to walk and sign autographs at the same time. "These are coming out so terrible," he said as he worked the morning crowd at Channel 6.
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