‘American Idol’ Finalist HunterGirl Returns To Winchester, Tenneessee For Tearful Homecoming Celebration
American Idol Top 3 finalist HunterGirl returned to her hometown of Winchester, Tennessee for the first time in two months…
HunterGirl; Photo Courtesy Middle State Tennessee University
American Idol Top 3 finalist HunterGirl returned to her hometown of Winchester, Tennessee for the first time in two months on Tuesday, May 17 for an emotional reunion with her family, friends and neighbors.
Just five days before the Season 20 finale of Idol, HunterGirl was honored in Franklin County with a special ceremony that celebrated her success on Idol.
The event, which took place at The Oldham Theatre, was attended by thousands of Huntergirl’s supporters, including city and county officials who were on hand to award Huntergirl with several high honors from her community.
The ceremony began with several speeches from notable members of Franklin County and the city of Winchester.
“I would love to thank HunterGirl for representing Tennessee, Franklin County and especially Winchester on American Idol,” Amy Dennis, on behalf of Congressman Scott DesJarlais, shared. ”You have made all of us proud and we are here to show all of our support and welcome you home. Thank you again for bringing your light to our community. We wish you all the very best and we’ll be watching you and voting on Sunday night.”
The Idol finalist was presented with a key to the city of Winchester, a proclamation that declared May 17th “Huntergirl Day,” a plaque deeming her an honorary professor at her alma mater, Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU), as well as other gifts from teachers and other members of the community.
“I’m a professor,” the 23-year-old joked while laughing after receiving the plaque, which proclaimed her an honorary professor of MTSU.
David Alexander, the Mayor of Franklin County, then took the stage to thank HunterGirl for her continued support of Veterans through her career as a music therapist.
“We are so pleased to have you here. Look at this excitement out here it’s wonderful,” Alexander said. “As a Veteran, I particularly want to thank you for what you do for Vets and your music therapy. Thank you so much. And now, on behalf of Franklin County, Tennessee, we would like to wish HunterGirl a long, fulfilling musical career. Always remember your roots, where you come from, and the ones that supported you along the way.”
“It has arrived. Your one day,” Alexander added as he proclaimed May 17, 2022, as “HunterGirl Day.”
The South Central Tennessee Tourism Association and Experience Tennessee representative, Ryan French, applauded her for being an inspiration and role model to the youth within the community.
“From Elvis in Memphis through the streets of Nashville, to the Tennessee Mountain home of Dolly and now right here in the Downtown area of Winchester, Tennessee, music is the fabric of what we know in Tennessee,” French said. “It’s the fabric of what we are. In the eyes of America, Hunter your journey is just beginning, but we all know here that this journey’s been long and hard and fun. Thank you from the bottom of my heart and these little kids in the front, thank you for inspiring music, thank you for inspiring the youth and community, the region and state.”
A visibly emotional HunterGirl then took to the stage to share her gratitude for her hometown’s unwaivering support.
“Thank you guys, I love y’all, I’ll try not to cry the whole time. Thank you guys for always supporting me,” she said as tears ran down her cheeks. “Thank you for having my back. I wanted to chase my dream for a really long time, but I know I couldn’t do it without any of you guys.”
She went on to recall her time growing up in Winchester and dedicated her success on Idol to everyone who has helped her along the way.
“The whole point of music is to be able to share it with people and I’m lucky enough to have so many people that love me and appreciate just writing songs and trying to go after something. I’ve worked really hard at this since I was 14 years old and my mom and dad dropping me off and waving at me through the window like ‘oh my God, I just dropped my daughter off to play music,’” she said.’ “There’s so many people that I love here today and I just want to tell you that I appreciate you and If I become the next American Idol, it’s not gonna be just for me, it’s going to be for all of you guys because you guys believed in me from the start. Anytime that I thought about giving up, I knew I couldn’t because I had all you guys at home. So, thank you guys for loving me, because I love you too. Thank you guys.”
After graciously thanking her hometown, the singer/songwriter was taken around the back of The Oldham Theatre, where a hand painted mural of one of her Idol performances was unveiled.
Following the ceremony at Oldham Theatre, HunterGirl took to Instagram to share a video of the massive crowd in attendance at her homecoming celebration.
“I AM HOME!!!!!!! 💛” HunterGirl captioned the clip on Instagram.
After the festivities at Oldham Theatre, HunterGirl walked through her alma mater, Franklin County High School. Later this evening, the celebrations will conclude with a free concert (4:30-8:30) from the Top 3 finalist at Twin Creeks Marina and Resort in Winchester.
HunterGirl has enjoyed a historic run on American Idol season 20. After auditioning with Rascal Flatts’ “Riot,” she was given Idol’s first-ever Platinum ticket and Luke Bryan dubbed her a “new age Miranda Lambert.”
“It’s my fifth year doing this and that is my favorite female country voice I’ve heard in five years,” Bryan also declared.
She also performed an original track called “Heartbreak Down” and covered country hits like Sugarland’s “Baby Girl,” Dolly Parton’s “9 to 5,” and Carrie Underwood’s “Undo It.”
Additionally, HunterGirl recently shared her debut single, “Red Bird.”
The three-hour season finale of American Idol airs on Sunday, May 22, at 8/7c on ABC.
Lauren Jo Black
Lauren Jo Black, a University of Central Florida graduate, has immersed herself in the world of country music for over 15 years. In 2008, she co-founded CountryMusicIsLove, eventually selling it to a major record label in 2015. Following the rebranding of the website to Sounds Like Nashville, Black served as Editor-in-Chief for two and a half years. Currently, she assumes the role of Editor-in-Chief at Country Now and oversees Country Now’s content and digital footprint. Her extensive experience also encompasses her previous role as a Country Music Expert Writer for Answers.com and her work being featured on Forbes.com. She’s been spotlighted among Country Aircheck’s Women of Influence and received the 2012 Rising Star Award from the University of Central Florida. Black also spent time in front of the camera as host of Country Now Live, which brought live music directly to fans in 2021 when the majority of concerts were halted due to the pandemic. During this time, she hosted 24 weeks of live concerts via Country Now Live on Twitch with special guests such as Lady A, Dierks Bentley, Jordan Davis, Brett Young, and Jon Pardi. Over the course of her career, she has had the privilege of conducting interviews with some of the industry’s most prominent stars, including Reba McEntire, Blake Shelton, Luke Combs, Carrie Underwood, Luke Bryan, Miranda Lambert, Lainey Wilson, and many others. Lauren Jo Black is a longtime member of the Country Music Association and the Academy of Country Music.