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May 17, 2013

Kree fans crushed by 'Idol' outcome

PORT ARTHUR — What do Clay Aiken, Adam Lambert, Katharine McPhee and Lauren Alaina have in common?

All were one of the top two finalists on “American Idol.” All were outvoted by their last remaining competitor. All have been met with considerable success in their “Idol” afterlives — in fact, both Aiken and Lambert have eclipsed their predecessors.

In other words, country crooner Kree Harrison’s contingency is not concerned.

Since being named one of Season 12’s Top 10 finalists on March 7, the 22-year-old Woodville native has beguiled even the most hard-nosed of critics with her soulful yet understated performances. But on Thursday night, in the ultimate duel of divas, Harrison was edged out by R&B powerhouse — and longtime front-runner  — Candice Glover.

Despite the disappointing news, the raucous crowd gathered to watch the final results show at The Boudain Hut, 5714 Gulfway Drive, was only momentarily quelled — in fact, Harrison’s duet with “Idol” judge Keith Urban on his song “Where the Blacktop Ends” was the only time silence fell over the restaurant. Sounds of Glover singing her final song were drowned out by chants of, “We love Kree!”

“It ain’t over,” declared Kree’s aunt, Penny Harrison of Bridge City — known far and wide as “Proud Aunt Penny.” “She’s our ‘Idol’ and we’ll always love her. Kree’s rolling on, baby.”

Rachel Waite, Harrison’s cousin, echoed that sentiment.

“Kree is going to be huge, no matter what the results are,” said Waite, who lives in Groves. “We are so proud of her.”

That pride is not limited to Harrison’s family. Since being named to the Top 10, Harrison has become the darling of Southeast Texas. Fans showed up by the thousands to her homecoming parade in Woodville on May 4, and even more attended her concert that night at Ford Park in Beaumont.

“Texas did her right,” said another aunt, Keshia LeBouef. “And if anybody deserves that, it’s Kree Annette Harrison.”

LeBouef made the trip from her home in Austin to be among family while cheering on her niece. Was it worth the drive? Absolutely, she said.

“I would drive 1,000 miles to watch her,” LeBouef said.

Another of Harrison’s cousins, Lacey Chestang, traveled more than that. Chestang, who was in town from Mobile, Ala., said she didn’t think the loss of the “Idol” crown was something her cousin would dwell on.

“She’s going to be up there with Carrie Underwood,” Chestang said. “I think she knows this is just the beginning. This is something she’s been doing since she was 4. It’s her turn.”

Glover is a three-time “Idol” veteran. The 23-year-old South Carolina native previously auditioned in Seasons 9 and 11. However, Chestang was adamant that her cousin would not follow in Glover’s footsteps.

“I think Keith is going to pick her up on his record label,” Chestang said. “She’ll never go back. She’s going to be bigger.”

While Kree was unmistakably the night’s main topic, two people were never far from anyone’s minds. Fans sported shirts emblazoned with “Team Kree” — and in the top right-hand corner, a heart inscribed with the names “Clint and Kathy.” Clint and Kathy were Harrison’s parents. He died in a plane crash when Harrison was 12; she in a 2009 automobile accident.

“They’re dancing on Cloud 9 together,” said Penny Harrison. “They’ll be dancing on Cloud 9 for a long time.”

Email: ecallahan@panews.com

Twitter: @ErinnPA

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