Breathe deep, northwest Ohio, and let the Crystal Bowersox celebrations begin.
After the delayed announcement of her fate on American Idol until near the end of last night's show - no doubt to boost the drama and sagging ratings - Bowersox learned she was safely into the Top 3, along with fellow contestants Casey James and Lee DeWyze.
Gone from their ranks is Michael "Big Mike" Lynche. The 26-year-old personal trainer from Astoria, N.Y., was eliminated after receiving the fewest votes following Tuesday's performance.
Lynche sang "Will You Be There" by Michael Jackson and "Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman?" by Bryan Adams in a duet with James. The former song was mostly panned by judges as "all right" and "a little bit predictable," while the latter was praised as "brilliant" and "really good."
Five weeks ago, Lynche was nearly booted from American Idol, until the judges stepped in and used their only save of the season to keep him from elimination.
"It's been unbelievable, man, unbelievable," Lynche said after learning he wouldn't be in the Top 3. "I just sit here right now and think I wasn't even supposed to be here. Thank God for the judges [who] saved me. I got to spend more time here and be with the people, performing for my wife. It's all good, man."
Nearly 37 million voted Tuesday, the highest total of the season, host Ryan Seacrest said.
For the 24-year-old Bowersox, reaching the Top 3 means a return home tomorrow that includes parades and concert performances.
She's also looking forward to playing in some of her old haunts with some old friends, as she said on Idol last night.
"I really want to play a gig with Frankie May, my bass player, go to The Village Idiot, Papa's Tavern, and all the places that are really dear to my heart," Bowersox said.
She'll have to squeeze that into an already very busy day.
Late last week, the Toledo Mud Hens announced Bowersox would perform the National Anthem at tomorrow's game. Today the club will announce that she will also be throwing out the first pitch, with the possibility of her doing more at the game, if she's up to it after a whirlwind day of activities and appearances.
"Certainly we're going to invite her to sing 'Take Me Out to the Ballgame,' and read the batter announcements," said Scott Jeffer, assistant general manager and director of marketing for the Mud Hens. "If we have to change 'Take Me Out to the Ballgame' to the third inning, we'll do it."
Mr. Jeffer said ticket sales for tomorrow's game have been brisk since the Bowersox announcement.
"It's been like Opening Day. We've sold thousands of tickets since Friday night," he said.
Limited seats are still available, he added, but the team is "prepared to make standing-room only tickets available should there be there no seats remaining."
Bowersox is scheduled to make her on-field appearance at 7 p.m.
For more information, call 419-725-4367 or visit mudhens.com.
And prior to the game, there will be parades and concert performances by Bowersox in downtown Toledo and at the Ottawa County Fairgrounds.
The city of Toledo will kick off the festivities at 11:30 a.m. in front of Owens Corning, with a parade to run down Summit Street to Madison Avenue and Promenade Park.
Mayor Mike Bell will lead the event on his Harley-Davidson motorcycle and Bowersox will ride in a car at the end of the procession. The entire parade run is expected to last about 20 minutes.
At 12:30 p.m., Bowersox will perform a 45-minute concert of covers and originals at Levis Square, at the intersection of Summit Street and Madison Avenue, across from Promenade Park.
Several downtown Toledo streets will be closed before or during the parade and concert.
At 10 a.m., Water Street will be closed between Monroe Street and Jefferson Avenue for parade staging. After the 11:30 a.m. step-off, Owens Corning Parkway and then Summit Street between Washington Street and Madison Avenue will be closed as the parade passes.
After the parade, until about 12:30 p.m., Water will be closed between Madison and the Imagination Station while Madison will be closed between Water and Summit.
The concert, meanwhile, will require closing St. Clair Street between Jefferson and Adams Street, and Madison between St. Clair and Superior streets, both starting at about 10:30 a.m. Access to parking garages on St. Clair will be maintained.
On-street parking will be prohibited in designated areas near Levis Square.
Bowersox is from Elliston, Ohio, in southeast Ottawa County, which is preparing to welcome its hometown girl with a small parade and a concert performance between 4 to 6 p.m. at the Ottawa County Fairgrounds.
The parade will begin across the street from the fairgrounds and continue past the midway to the grandstand area.
Bowersox will perform along with opening act the Undeserving, a Fremont rock band whose anthemic "Something To Hope For" was chosen to promote this season of American Idol.
Following her performance at the fairgrounds, the Ottawa County Sheriff's Department will escort Bowersox to Fifth Third Field.
Also beginning at 10 a.m. tomorrow, tickets go on sale for the "American Idol Live!" Tour Sept. 2 performance at Huntington Center.
The concert will feature the American Idol Season 9 Top 10 contestants: Didi Benami, DeWyze, Andrew Garcia, James, Aaron Kelly, Lynche, Siobhan Magnus, Katie Stevens, Tim Urban, and Bowersox.
Tickets are priced at $40.50, $50.50, and $70.50 and will be available at livenation.com, all Ticketmaster locations, the Huntington Center ticket office, and charge-by-phone by calling (800) 745-3000.
Contact Kirk Baird at: