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Clarksville embraces 'American Idol' finalist Maddie Poppe

Singer's hometown welcomes home its star

Maddie Poppe, “American Idol” finalist, performs in concert Tuesday at the Butler County Fairgrounds in Alison. Poppe also visited her high school and a celebration in Clarksville, her hometown in north-central Iowa. (Matthew Putney/Waterloo Courier)
Maddie Poppe, “American Idol” finalist, performs in concert Tuesday at the Butler County Fairgrounds in Alison. Poppe also visited her high school and a celebration in Clarksville, her hometown in north-central Iowa. (Matthew Putney/Waterloo Courier)
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CLARKSVILLE — Iowans didn’t need the producers of “American Idol” to ramp them up: They were already excited about welcoming Maddie Poppe home on Tuesday.

Poppe, 20, is one of three finalists in the “Idol” competition that airs Sunday and Monday evenings on ABC. The winner receives a recording contract with Hollywood Records and $250,000.

Hundreds packed the Clarksville town square Tuesday afternoon to welcome home the young woman who’s put Clarksville on the map.

Some Poppe fans were wearing shirts they’d made themselves, including Joe Vaughn of Story City. His said “Team Sign Me,” with Maddie Poppe’s autograph on the front.

“I love how humble she is,” Vaughn said, noting Poppe also had signed a picture of the two of them together. “She is very much deserving.”

But perhaps no one was more excited than Poppe herself, who arrived just before 3 p.m. for a short presentation with Mayor Val Swinton, who proclaimed Tuesday as “Maddie Poppe Day.”

Poppe, he said, had generated “positive awareness” of the Butler County city of 1,400 in north-central Iowa.

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“You literally have put us on the map,” said Swinton, noting his niece in South Carolina posted to Facebook that her uncle was the mayor of Clarksville. “All of a sudden, because of you, I have a really cool position.”

“I’ve always wanted a holiday!” Poppe said. “You know what that means, kids — you get off school! And you can take off work, too!”

“Watch it — you’re gonna get elected mayor,” Swinton said.

“I literally can’t even believe this,” she said. “To see it all is just incredible. Thank you so much. ... It’s good to be home.”

A couple of business owners presented Poppe with gifts. Holly Fokkena, owner of Prairie Rose Fabrics, gave Poppe a quilt, a “bus-warming gift” for Poppe’s first tour bus.

“I’m not usually a reality-television person,” Fokkena said. “But for this, you have to.”

Fokkena and others were sure Poppe would beat out Caleb Lee Hutchinson and Gabby Barrett to claim the “Idol” crown next week.

In turn, Poppe, wearing overalls and combat boots, said she was grateful for her hometown’s support.

“This community has been so amazing, (but) I’m not surprised by this,” Poppe said. “We all always back each other, no matter what anybody is going through.”

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Poppe became emotional talking about being surprised by her Class of 2016 classmates when she visited the high school Tuesday morning, as well as hearing the elementary school students sing “Rainbow Connection,” the song she sang at her “Idol” audition.

“So many of you out here have really supported me since day one, since I sang ‘Landslide’ in the gym the first time, or when I would get up with my dad’s band at Pioneer Days and sing ‘Sweet Child of Mine,’ ” Poppe said. “You guys aren’t just hopping on the bandwagon now. You’re not just supporting me because I’m on the show. You guys truly have been there for this whole thing. ... It means the world to me.”

Poppe and her family also joined a parade down North Main Street at 5 p.m. Mike Kramer, who owns Pete and Shorty’s along the route, sold hot dogs, brats and beverages to the crowd while Poppe’s “Idol” tunes played on a speaker.

“She’s the full package — songwriter, singer, musician,” Kramer said.

Signs were plentiful along the route, including one from Cyndy Christensen of Rockwell, who wrote on hers: “We may not have any stoplights in Butler Co., but we do have a shining star.”

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