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From Snellville to Stardom
We all watched and anxiously awaited every Wednesday night. Invariably, we#d shout at Ryan Seacrest for continuing the agony with, #America voted∧ we#ll find out who they picked&after this commercial.# We held watch parties at Shiloh High. And we cheered for our very own #girl next door# when she became the runner-up on American Idol.

This past season, Diana DeGarmo parlayed her undeniable Southern charm and one amazing set of pipes into the chance of

a lifetime on American Idol. Although Diana didn#t win the competition and the $1 million

recording contract, she did release a new CD only weeks after the final episode and began a whirlwind summer of touring and special appearances throughout the country. From limousines to bodyguards, this 17-year-old powerhouse is experiencing a life that many only dream about, and yet, she seems perfectly at ease with her new role.

When Stone Mountain Park recently hosted a birthday bash of mega proportions for the hometown idol, Diana tirelessly signed autographs at the eight-hour celebration. A huge crowd sang #Happy Birthday,# and Diana returned the love with powerful renditions of songs like #Turn the Beat Around# and #I Believe,# which is featured on her first CD.

Ann Tant, an Atlanta native who now lives in Nashville, Tenn., attended Diana#s birthday party and recalls over a decade of fond memories of Diana.

#I#ve been in the music business about 40 years, and I know they [Diana and her mom, Brenda] have worked hard and sacrificed a lot to be in this business,# Tant said. #She has been brought up very well and has always known how to act so nice and respectful to people.#

Tant recalled performances by the young singer at places like Mama#s Country Showcase, owned by the late Mama Wynette, who was also Tant#s mother.

#We lost my mother in 2002, and Diana sang at her funeral. I don#t believe there was a dry eye # she sang like an angel,# said Tant. #She is so talented that she can do anything. She really does deserve every bit of this.#

And every bite! When Rhodes Bakery of Snellville presented Diana with a seven-tiered birthday cake, adorned with star lilies and bathed in her signature color of pink, she was amazed.

#They told me that there was a birthday cake for me, but when I saw it, I was like now that#s a BIRTHDAY cake.# Diana said. Snellville Councilman Bruce Garraway also presented the birthday girl with a beautiful bouquet from the city of Snellville.

For someone who put Snellville on the map, that#s just a small part of the town#s support. When DeGarmo became an American Idol obsession, folks from Snellville cheered her on in every way possible.

#When I found out that she [Diana] had made the cut of the 70,000 American Idol contestants,

I went straight to Shiloh [high school] to find out how I could

volunteer,# said long-time family friend, Linda Luntz, who also resides in Snellville. #From early February to the final episode, I put out signs, fliers and went to businesses in the area to ask for support # anything to get our girl out there.#

That dedication and hard work set the wheels in motion. Before too long, everybody who is somebody in Snellville had jumped on board the Diana train.

#Every time my mom and I ride by a sign, she points them out and we both smile,# Diana said. #It#s really cool to see how much people really care.#

#Now we can tell people that

we live in Snellville,# said Erica Wilson, who attended Diana#s 17th birthday party with more than 10,000 other screaming fans. #It#s a big difference because nobody knew where Snellville was before.#

Working tirelessly behind the scenes for her only child is Diana#s mom, Brenda DeGarmo. #I would never do this if I had more children,# said Brenda, who started taking Diana to the Tiny Miss pageants at th