American Idol Hopeful Wins Upstate N.Y. Competition

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Tears filled Shannon Smith's eyes as she was crowned the 2006 Twin Tiers Idol Wednesday night at a mall in Upstate New York.

The Elmira Star-Gazette reports that the Breesport, N.Y., native, 19, was overcome with emotion as she was enveloped in a sea of family, friends and other contestants as they hugged and congratulated her. Portions of the Janis Joplin classic, "Me and Bobby McGee," which Smith sang twice during the contest, could be heard over shrieks of excitement.

Four weeks ago, the competition began with 20 young hopefuls vying for an all-expenses-paid trip to audition for Season 6 of Fox's American Idol. The field was narrowed down to 15, then 10, then five, and finally, to Smith.

"Excited. Overwhelmed," Smith said in describing how she felt after being handed the large Twin Tiers Idol trophy.

Next on the to-do list for Smith, who works as a teller at Elmira Savings Bank in Southport, N.Y., will be to head to East Rutherford, N.J., on August 14 to audition for the program that has made household names out of singers such as Kelly Clarkson and Clay Aiken.

"I think I've got to work really hard... definitely," Smith said, adding that her experience in winning the Twin Tiers Idol competition should help her prepare. "I've definitely learned that variety (in music) is a good thing, and you want to connect with your audience."

She's not kidding about the variety. Smith treated spectators to a sample of her yodeling as well as singing skills during the competition.

Wednesday's ceremony was a chance for Smith and her fellow contestants who made it to the top five -- Jeremiah Tyler, Juliana Johnson, Olivia Fagan and Katie Geary -- to have some fun. They each began by singing their favorite song from the contest, then performed a medley from the musical "Grease" with judges Brenton Sheppard and Wendy Owens.

The contestants, who grew close during the competition, as we have seen for years on American Idol, found they had plenty of support as they sang once more for fun. The crowds grew from between 400 and 600 the first week of the competition to between 1,700 and 2,000 Tuesday night, the last night for the public to vote for the Twin Tiers Idol.

"We've had such tremendous support from the community. It's heartwarming for me to know that I can help these young up-and-coming singers," said Cheryl Guild, marketing director for the Arnot Mall, the event's venue.

Matt Richenthal is the Editor in Chief of TV Fanatic. Follow him on Twitter and on Google+.