Bradenton woman advances in 'American Idol' tryouts

NEW ORLEANS — Long before sunrise Monday morning, more than 6,000 young vocalists put their dreams of stardom to the test at the New Orleans Arena, joining others from throughout the nation in hopes of becoming the next “American Idol.”

A Bradenton woman who auditioned, Erin Kelly, 20, saw her dreams take a small step forward, as she advanced to the next round of the competition.

New Orleans was the third site for auditions for the first round in the popular Fox reality show, coming into its 10th season. Previous cities are Nashville and Milwaukee, with East Rutherford, N.J., Austin, Texas, and San Francisco coming up in August.

There were Mardi Gras masks and jangling Mardi Gras beads, guys with ink-black Adam Lambert hair and at least one male contestant dressed like a cross between Vegas-era Elvis and a Mardi Gras king.

Herbie and Josie Torres of Bradenton, were there hugging each other and looking anxiously through the glass at the front of the arena, searching for Kelly, their adopted daughter.

“She made it,” Herbie said, beaming.

“We were sitting there, and we saw where she was. They had her sing, then they made her wait, then they had her sing again, and she made it,” Josie said.

It was a small miracle they were there at all. Herbie’s vacation time had been moved ahead so they could make the trip, and friends and coworkers took up a collection to help the family with expenses. Along the way, their car broke down, and Herbie fixed it, but they had no air conditioning, he said.

Kelly was just as determined to succeed.

“This is my dream, and I’m going to chase it,” she said.

Monday’s auditions are only the first round, with several more to go before remaining contestants are chosen to go to Hollywood.