Thousands of 'American Idol' hopefuls gather at AT&T Park


Singers of all ages and styles filled Terry A. Francois Boulevard, several strumming guitars and many singing to pass the time - and maybe rattle the competition - as they waited to be funneled to a registration area outside the ballpark.

There, they waited a little longer before receiving the wristbands, which will get them into Thursday's opening-round auditions at the stadium. Fox representatives will be manning the registration table outside AT&T Park 24 hours a day until about 8 a.m. Thursday.

Some San Francisco police officers were on site starting at midnight, and one said there were already about 100 people waiting there when he arrived for his 12 a.m. shift.

As of 10 a.m., there hadn't been any problems with the eager singers, and police were confident there wouldn't be any.

Brittany Zelaya, 17, and her mother Amy returned to their hometown of San Francisco from Snohomish, Washington, for the audition, and started waiting in line around 5 a.m.

Zelaya was part of the first group of people to receive their wristbands this morning. Singing Beyonce's "Listen" on Thursday will be the recent high school graduate's first "American Idol" audition.

"I've never wanted to do anything else," Zelaya said. She said she was not intimidated by the teeming crowd. "I don't want to be overconfident, but I think I can hold up."

Twenty-five-year-old Randle Rinkin came to the Bay Area from Santa Clarita last week, and wants to use "American Idol" to launch his musical career - a dream he is pursuing for the first time now due to his recent unemployment.

Rinkin had worked as a pastry chef in Southern California until his restaurant went out of business four months ago, giving him the impetus to use the bachelor's degree he earned in vocal performance from a small Christian college in Santa Clarita.

He thinks his personal story will help him advance in the competition, and said he hopes the crowd will be thinned by "type-outs," in which contestants are immediately rejected because they don't fit the image the show is seeking.

"With this (competition), a type-out has to do with your story," Rinkin said.

A pair of 17-year-old fraternal twins from Marin County who waited for three hours before walking away with wristbands disagreed.

"I think it's about singing all the way around," said one twin, Jake, who plans to sing a Frankie Valli song on Thursday.

"People like sob stories for the camera, but your singing is what changes the judges' minds," said his sister Stephanie, who will audition with Rihanna's "Take A Bow."

Jhalisa Walker, 21, isn't trying to intuit what will happen after her audition on Thursday, and just hopes to make it further than her older sister, who tried out two years ago but was eliminated after the first round of auditions.

Walker and her supportive boyfriend of eight months, Adrian McFarland, 25, took BART to San Francisco from Fremont this morning, arriving around 7:45 a.m. McFarland said he heard that people began lining up as early as 11 p.m. Monday.

"We thought getting here at seven would be too early, but it turns out it was too late," he said.

McFarland recorded videos on his iPhone documenting the registration process. He said that at one point they waited an hour without the line progressing at all.

Walker plans to sing "If I Ain't Got You" by Alicia Keys for her audition on Thursday, and calls her boyfriend her inspiration.

"I'm a bit nervous, just a little bit," she said. "I'm just going to give it my best. If they like me, they like me, and if they don't at least I tried."

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