Crystal vs. Lee in 'American Idol's' final two

She's just one show away from clinching the title. The next American Idol will either be the small-town girl, or the city boy from Chicago. But whether she finishes first or comes in a close second, northern Ohio won't stop believing in Crystal Bowersox.
Annie Zelm
May 20, 2010

She's just one show away from clinching the title.

The next American Idol will either be the small-town girl, or the city boy from Chicago.

But whether she finishes first or comes in a close second, northern Ohio won't stop believing in Crystal Bowersox.

The Ottawa County native wiped away a few tears when "American Idol" aired footage of her hometown visit last week, set to one of her original tunes, "Holy Toledo."

"Northwest Ohio's been in kind of a slump for a while ... it's just given the area so much hope and something to look forward to," she said when host Ryan Seacrest asked about her inspiration for writing the song.

"That's what it's all about, man."

Back in Crystal's hometown of Elliston, Trinity United Church of Christ has attracted a bigger following each week as she's inched closer to the finish.

Between 450 and 500 people gathered there Wednesday to watch as voters sent Casey James packing, pitting Crystal against Lee DeWyze. As parking spaces filled up, cars flooded the lot of the neighboring Zion United Methodist Church.

Most of the local folks who stopped in to eat and cheer seemed confident the competition would come down to Crystal and Lee after both delivered solid performances Tuesday.

Crystal started off strong with "Come to My Window," by Melissa Etheridge but really wowed the judges with her take on Ellen DeGeneres' choice: "Maybe I'm Amazed," by Paul McCartney.

Former northern Ohio resident Jan Tomlinson traveled all the way from the Nashville area to join the church in rallying behind her.

"I wouldn't miss it," she said. "This is a pretty exciting place."

Tomlinson, who served as a substitute teacher at Oak Harbor High School while Crystal was a student there, called her "Janis Joplin reincarnated," and said her personal style has distinguished her among the competition from the very beginning.

Milbury resident Danielle Smith, 14, dreams of singing on a national stage someday and said Crystal's success has inspired her to try out for the show when she turns 16.

She guesses she and her mother Shannon Smith, 33, have voted about 600 times between the two of them.

On Tuesday night, she said she considered it a good sign when she kept hearing a busy signal each time she tried to call in her votes.

"It's kind of a game to see who can vote the most," she said.

Helena resident Candice Fought, 27, said as a substitute band teacher, Crystal's rise to fame is a daily reminder of what her music students might be capable of one day.

"It makes you realize the impact you can have," she said.

Kelsey Schimming, 11, a fifth-grade student in Graytown, said what she likes most about Crystal is "that she makes this little town so big."

With a conspicuous Brutus hat and his trademark scarlet and gray, Jon "Big Nut" Peters of Fremont usually stands out while cheering for the Ohio State Buckeyes.

This time, the red shirt he wore was for Crystal.

He's been a fan ever since the show started and said he had no doubt she'd make it to the show's finale.

But he couldn't believe how many people came to his home church to celebrate the occasion.

"There's a lot of love in here, a lot of dreams," Peters said. "I think she's got it."