OAK HARBOR, Ohio - Make no mistake: Ottawa County has found its idol.
Crystal Bowersox, a virtual unknown just five months ago, arrived back on her native turf Friday to throngs of cheering fans and official fanfare.
It was a whirlwind day, but Bowersox appeared delighted as she sped through the county in her motorcade, stopping to visit with family in her hometown of Elliston before heading off for a parade through Oak Harbor and, finally, to play before 5,000 at the Ottawa County fairgrounds.
Along the way, signs of Crystalmania were everywhere - from the church bells in Elliston heralding her return to the hundreds of people staking out the parade route with lawn chairs.
At the fairgrounds, everyone from tiny tots to gray-haired retirees wore Crystal Bowersox T-shirts, shouting her name and waving signs of support.
"History's being made," said Bev Krofft, as she awaited Bowersox's arrival along Water Street in Oak Harbor with her husband and a friend. At 3 p.m., Mrs. Krofft had been sitting nearly two hours on a lawn chair outside Rite Aid so she could catch a glimpse of the singer. "We've been watching her on all of her TV shows," Mrs. Krofft said. "Every time she's on, I vote 200 times."
In Elliston, Bowersox, 24, spent about 30 minutes with her parents, grandparents, twin brother, and other family members at her father Bill Bowersox's house. Several dozen townspeople and outside visitors stood and watched from behind security vehicles as Bowersox hugged her family and toddler son, waved to the crowd, and disappeared inside the home.
Erica Clair of Columbus said she had taken the day off work and driven up to the area in the middle of the night to follow Bowersox from Toledo to Elliston and the fairgrounds and then back to Toledo again.
Originally from Oak Harbor, Ms. Clair said she has become a dedicated fan of Bowersox, even though she doesn't enjoy watching the American Idol show.
"She's true to herself," Ms. Clair said. "She's proof you don't have to sell yourself out to achieve your dreams."
At the fairgrounds, Bowersox's parade arrived to a sea of supporters yelling "Crystal Rocks! Crystal Rocks!" Bowersox rode in an open-topped black Ford Mustang behind the Oak Harbor High School band, a car carrying her grandparents and cousins, and her son, who was carried on a motorcycle sidecar.
A slew of officials waited to greet Bowersox on stage, including U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D., Toledo), Ottawa County commissioners, Benton Township trustees, and Oak Harbor Mayor Fred Conley.
Each party presented the new hometown hero with gifts: Ms. Kaptur gave her an American flag, Mr. Conley a certificate of recognition, and Steve Turnow of the Trinity United Church of Christ in Elliston offered a key to the town.
"Crystal, you left Elliston a singer and you come home a star," Mr. Turnow said. "The door will always be open for you."
Ottawa County Commissioner James Sass declared May 14 "Crystal Bowersox Day."
"I'm speechless," she said, after accepting the various offerings.
Launching into her four-song set, Bowersox appeared at ease, waving at people she recognized and interacting with the crowd. Her bassist, Frankie May, played with her.
"God bless you all for carrying me this far," Bowersox told the crowd. "I'm very thankful."
The set included Bowersox's own songs, "Holy Toledo," and "Speak Now," as well as Alanis Morissette's "Hand in My Pocket," and Kris Kristofferson's "Me and Bobby McGee," made popular by Janis Joplin.
Sitting amid the thousands of people, 73-year-old retired teacher Shirley LaCumsky of Port Clinton nodded her head to the music. "I think she's awesome, fantastic," Ms. LaCumsky said. "She's just got natural, raw talent. That's all there is to it."
Briana Jensen, 30, of Graytown, Ohio, attended the show with her husband and four daughters. She said Bowersox was setting an example to local children that it's possible to achieve dreams.
"I think it's planted a seed in each one of these kids' hearts," Ms. Jensen said. "This is a huge memory for all these kids here. They're going to remember this for the rest of their lives."
Contact Claudia Boyd-Barrett at:
or 419-724-6272.41.50821 -83.14501 ERROR: Template storyimage.ldo not found in theme default for section local!
Make no mistake: Ottawa County has found its idol. Crystal Bowersox, a virtual unknown just five months ago, arrived back on her native turf Friday to throngs of cheering fans and official fanfare.