LOUISA A whirlwind adventure took Noah Thompson to the bright lights and big stage of the Dolby Theater in Los Angeles, California. On Tuesday, he returned to Lawrence County, Kentucky, after being named to the top three contestants on Season 20 of American Idol.

Thompson is days away from the finale of the show, which will be live May 22.

The country singer was escorted down Country Music Highway and then took to the Lawrence County track in an orange 1954 Skylark convertible before walking through a tunnel created by the Lawrence County marching band playing the fight song.

Businesses had signs and window paintings displayed to honor the accomplishment by the young man from Blaine.

“It proves to the world that (someone from) a small town, Blaine, that has a very small population that, if you put your heart and soul into your dreams, they can accomplish it,” Robbie Fletcher, Superintendent of Lawrence County Schools, said.

Christina Hall awaited the parade outside the high school with grandson Leelynn, who had once recognized Thompson in Walmart. Leelynn said he has a cute baby, and the young boy has been watching every week. He looks up to Thompson.

Hall said she is from Little Blaine, and has Thompsons in her family. She doesn’t know if she is technically related, but nonetheless, she said Lawrence County is family no matter. Family takes care of one another, Hall said.

Hall said she is proud of Thompson and is so grateful he has this opportunity to create a life for himself.

After his travels down U.S. 23, Thompson took to the stage and greeted the boisterous crowd. Posters with “Noah’s #1 Fan” and T-Shirts with “Protect the Accent” littered the Lawrence County field.

Thompson said it’s the largest number of people he’s ever seen before. He was awarded a street sign “Noah Thompson Lane” and a proclamation of “Noah Thompson Day” by the local politicians and community leaders.

Teenage girls with starstruck eyes and Wrangler-wearing men full of pride gathered around with their family and friends to support the 20-year-old bringing national attention to Louisa.

Maci Grimmett was on a fifth-grade field trip to the Columbus Zoo earlier in the day, but mom Meg Grimmett, said they had to get back to Kentucky on time to see the hometown star.

Thompson stood on the stage set on the football field of Lawrence County High School, the school from where he graduated less than two years ago.

As Thompson waited in the Skylark, he was asked questions by the crowd. One young boys asked him if he liked Mountain Dew.

“Oh yeah, Mountain Dew’s the best!” he replied to the child.

A teen girl asked his favorite artist. The answer is Kentucky’s very own Chris Stapleton.

Thompson was joined by Kameron Marlowe on stage. They sang a duet of “Giving You Up,” which is Marlowe’s tune that Thompson used in his audition for American Idol. Marlowe recounted his first meeting of Thompson and his awe when he first heard Thompson’s rendition.

His graduation from high school didn’t have a crowd at all, let alone one the size of his welcome home parade, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, it did come with an interesting classmate.

“He graduated here the same year we gave Ricky Skaggs his diploma,” Fletcher said.

Fellow Lawrence County alumni Tyler Childers and Larry Cordle also played a part in the ceremony.

Thompson is poised to add to the many country artists that come from the area, from Loretta Lynn to Billy Ray Cyrus, from The Judds to Chris Stapleton and on.

Wes Kingsmoore, chairman of the Lawrence County Tourism Commission, called Thompson’s homecoming the biggest night in Lawrence County since Ricky Skaggs came home 40 years ago.

“We’re trying our best to put our best foot forward and make it to where it’s something that he can be proud of, that he’s got the support that he’s got,” Kingsmoore said.

The all-volunteer commission put together one of the most memorable events in decades in eight to 10 days, Kingsmoore said. Thompson didn’t technically make the top three that long ago, but Kingsmoore, and those who know Thompson, were confident the Kentuckian would move on.

Fletcher said people who came to Louisa Tuesday night would see “first and foremost, a young man that is very talented, that has a lot of God-given ability, but also a community that is fully supportive and we’ll go all in for anybody that we can to help them make (their) dreams come true.”

Views from the parade and concert will air on ABC, bringing national attention to Lawrence County. The day was made possible by a plethora of people and businesses.

“It’s an opportunity for our community to show how well we work together,” Fletcher said. “You will find many groups here in Lawrence County that are willing to support any person that is willing to work hard and chase their dreams.”

The community support spreads far past the county line of Lawrence. Kingsmoore said the moment Thompson made the top three, Prestonsburg Mayor Les Stapleton was texting him asking how they can help. From Ashland in the far northeast to Prestonsburg in the far southeast, eastern Kentucky showed up to celebrate one of their own. Whether it be businesses and funds or municipalities with fire and police, the region was ready to share the experience with Thompson

“Southern hospitality at its finest,” Kingsmoore said.

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