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Sunday, March 30, 2014

Mass show of support for ‘American Idol’ contestant Alex Preston, of Mont Vernon

MONT VERNON – Those who knew him in another life remember “American Idol” contestant Alex Preston as a quiet, shy student who attended Souhegan High School in Amherst and participated in the marching and jazz bands.

Most didn’t even know he could sing. ...

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MONT VERNON – Those who knew him in another life remember “American Idol” contestant Alex Preston as a quiet, shy student who attended Souhegan High School in Amherst and participated in the marching and jazz bands.

Most didn’t even know he could sing.

“When you talked to him, he was
really friendly, nice and kind to people,” said Marcus Cobleigh, who was in the marching band with Preston.

“He was just a good kid. I remember he played good drum solos. … I never heard him sing.”

Cobleigh joined more than 100 people Saturday morning in front of the Mont Vernon Village Store on Route 13 in support of the Mont Vernon native who has captivated the nation with his voice.

Last week, Preston broke into the top eight singers on the hit Fox television show “American Idol,” and now, many in this tiny town are hoping their hometown boy goes all the way.

Signs at the rally for Preston contained slogans such as “Alex Preston: You’re Our Idol” and “Vote for Alex.”

At one point, traffic was stopped on Route 13 as the crowd began chanting Preston’s name for television cameras.

Even two dogs, with their very own “Vote for Alex” scarves, supported Preston at the store.

“We all voted for him like 300 times,” said Madalynn Evans, a 13-year-old from Milford who helped organize “Alex Preston Day” at Milford Middle School.

“We helped get the whole day together,” Madalynn said.

“Everybody came to school with their pants all rolled up like him.”

Samantha Philbrick, 23, Preston’s sister, said the number of supporters who showed up Saturday stunned her.

“It’s crazy. … It’s still crazy every time,” she said. “I didn’t know what to expect, but everybody came with signs and rolled-up pants. I think we stopped traffic, too.”

Philbrick said she didn’t hear her brother sing until high school, when he joined a local band that needed a vocalist.

Matt Philbrick, 22, Preston’s brother, also sat in front of the large crowd at the store.

He said he isn’t worried about Preston’s chances until the top four contestants are picked on “American Idol.”

“I knew if he got into the spotlight he’d cruise right through,” Matt Philbrick said.

When asked where he thinks his brother will be in five years, Philbrick said he sees Preston performing across the country.

“He’ll have released his second album by then,” Philbrick said.

Lesli Rendall, Preston’s math teacher in high school, stood outside the store holding signs for Preston.

“He looks exactly the same as he did,” Rendall said. “He was a jeans and
T-shirt kid, and Hollywood is changing him into a star.”

Rendall said she convinced Preston to come back to his former school shortly after he made it into “American Idol” to speak to students.

“He sang songs and spoke more in an hour than he would have in an entire week of school,” Rendall said.

Dan Bellemore, owner of the Mont Vernon Village Store, said he has been well aware of Preston’s success on “American Idol” since the beginning.

“People were rushing in before 8 o’clock on Wednesdays to stock up for their ‘American Idol’ parties,” Bellemore said.

Bellemore said he hosted the show of support for Preston on Saturday because he’d been hearing rumors that Preston was getting homesick in Los Angeles.

“We thought we’d send a little piece of home out to him,” Bellemore said. “I put it on Facebook, and the next thing you know, everybody showed up.”

Bellemore said Preston’s “American Idol” run has been one of the biggest things to happen in Mont Vernon, and said this an exciting time for the town.

“This young man has lifted the spirit of an entire town,” Bellemore said. “All with his music and warm personality.”

Preston and the rest of the contestants on “American Idol” will be back in action at 8 p.m. Wednesday, when Preston will perform and try to advance even further into the competition by reaching the Top 7.

Bradford Randall can be reached at 594-6557 or brandall@nashua
telegraph.com. Also, follow Randall on Twitter (@telegraph_bradr).