ALLISON — A line of fans wound through the Butler County fairgrounds on Friday, waiting to welcome their own “American Idol” winner Maddie Poppe as the grandstand headliner.
“This county and these towns never stop believing in me,” Poppe told the hometown crowd.
The crowd shuffled through the doors onto the grass in the northeast corner of the fairgrounds where the concert had been moved due to weather.
Several hundred people sat in lawn chairs under the gray sky, but rain held off throughout the evening.
The crowd welcomed Poppe with cheers as she walked onto the stage, opening with the song “First Aid Kit” from her new album, “Whirlwind,” which hit No. 2 on the iTunes Pop Album charts in May.
With a performance blending old and new songs, Poppe also covered classics like “I Will Survive” by Gloria Gaynor, Jim Croce’s “Bad Bad Leroy Brown” and Garth Brooks’ “Friends in Low Places,” which she learned for the fair.
After a cover of “You’re so Vain” by Carly Simon, Poppe introduced the song the crowd seemed to be waiting for; they cheered as she strummed the first chords for “Going, Going, Gone.”
Poppe dedicated “Wildflowers” from her new album to the crowd.
“This one is about you guys,” Poppe said as she sang. “You can take me far away, but you can never take this part of me.”
Poppe brought an opening act, boyfriend Caleb Lee Hutchinson, onto the stage for two duets.
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At the start of the evening, Hutchinson, the 20-year-old Georgia runner-up on the 16th season of “American Idol,” walked on stage with his guitar to cheers from the crowd. His southern twang drifted over the crowd as he performed “Johnny Cash Heart,” a rendition of Post Malone’s “Better Now” and several songs from his upcoming album.
Poppe spent a few minutes talking with the crowd, discussing her gratitude for their support along her journey.
“Never give up on anything. If you want it hard enough it’s going to happen for you,” Poppe said.
She closed the set with Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline” as the crowd sang along, danced and clapped as stage lights flooded the dark sky.
Poppe had barely stepped off the stage when the crowd cheered for an encore. She returned and performed Melanie’s “Brand New Key” and “Rainbow Connection” from “The Muppet Movie.”
From a young age Poppe has been practicing music and performed in several talent shows. She sang and played guitar with her father, Trent, and prior to “American Idol” would perform gigs around Iowa. After an attempt on NBC’s “The Voice,” Poppe went on to win the 16th season of “American Idol.”
Audience member Lee Hood remembered seeing Trent and Maddie singing and playing guitar when Hood would come the Poppe home to rehearse with Trent’s band.
“You could see she had a voice,” Hood said, “… I didn’t know it would come to this.”
Hood played with Trent in their band The Chocolate Crackers, which formed in 2007. Trent retired about seven years later to help Maddie with her career and his other daughters through high school.
“I couldn’t be more proud of her if she were my own daughter,” Hood said.