North Carolina cheered iron-lunged American Idol champ Fantasia Barrino, who on Wednesday night emerged as the public's choice to win a $1 million recording contract and a new car – the 19-year-old single mother's first vehicle ever.
Fifteen miles outside of Barrino's hometown of High Point, some 8,000 fans watched as the vocal powerhouse beat out Snellville, Ga., native Diana DeGarmo, 16, in the two-hour finale of the FOX talent hunt, the Associated Press reports.
Fellow Tar Heel, Raleigh native Clay Aiken, who finished second last season and went on to sell more than 2 million copies of his debut album "Measure of a Man," hosted the event at the Greensboro Coliseum. Aiken even told screaming "Clayniacs" – provided they could hear above the din of screams for Fantasia – that the night was not for him: "Tonight is about Fantasia."
Family friend and Guilford County Commissioner Bruce Davis recalled for AP how he knew Fantasia was destined for the big time from the time she was 10 and sang at her grandparents' anniversary party.
"My wife said to me 'I have never seen you stand up for anyone who sang for you,'" Davis said. "But Fantasia's voiced just moved me. I just knew what a powerful voice she had."
Barrino's immediate family, including her 2-year-old daughter, Zion, joined the winner at Hollywood's Kodak Theatre for Wednesday's big night. Zion has been staying with Fantasia's mother during the AI season.
Fantasia dropped out of high school to have the child, whose father is Brandel Shouse, whom she met in school. (Shouse reportedly was later arrested for assaulting Fantasia, though today the two are said to be on cordial terms.)
As for runner-up Diana DeGarmo's fans in Atlanta, the 2,500 fans of hers who gathered in the Georgia Dome were said to be proud but disappointed by the outcome.
And they weren't the only ones: About 250 people also huddled at a Snellville church to cheer on their local hero and snack on cookies featuring her picture.
All told, a record 65 million votes were phoned into FOX to decide on Wednesday's winner, with Fantasia winning by 1.3 million votes, the network said.