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Local woman wins trip to 'Idol'

BRADENTON — Julie Barnes never won anything in her life. No fancy cars. No Florida lottery. Not even a simple keepsake.

So when the Bradenton resident heard that she won a national contest hosted by Regal Entertainment Group — a contest she didn’t even know she entered — she was floored.

Her prize: an all-expenses paid trip for four to Los Angeles to attend the two-day finale of “American Idol” on May 19 and 20. It includes a stay at the Beverly Hilton.

Barnes, 39, couldn’t believe her ears at first. She thought it was a telemarketing ploy. It took a few more minutes before she was convinced otherwise. Then the excitement set in.

“This trip was totally unexpected,” she said.

She’s been on cloud nine ever since, said her husband, Steve, 43.

Regal held the “Idol” contest in April at its 500-plus movie theaters. Movie-goers who purchased any Coca-Cola products at a Regal venue using their Regal Crown Club card were automatically entered into the contest.

Barnes entered when she took her 15-year-old daughter, Emily, along with her niece to see “Hannah Montana: The Movie” last month at Oakmont 8 on Cortez Road.

She brought sodas for the girls and swiped her club card. She had no idea about the contest, though a sign was hanging in the lobby about it.

Barnes, who runs a vending machine business with her husband, is a die-hard “Idol” fan. She tunes into the show every season.

This will be the family’s first trip to L.A. Barnes is also taking her mom, Valerie Jenkins, who is a fan of the show.

Barnes said she is rooting for the rockish Adam Lambert to win. Steve Barnes, who watches the show on and off, is just happy to go.

“The fact that my daughter, my wife and my mother-in-law are all excited — that just tickles me to no end,” he said.

His wife is still stunned she won.

“When I’m on the plane, I think it will finally sink in,” she said.

January Holmes, features writer, can be reached at 745-7057.

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