Fans of Westlake native and ''American Idol'' contestant Josh Ledet cheer during a parade for Ledet Saturday on Sampson Street in Westlake. (Michelle Higginbotham / Special to the American Press)
Westlake native and ''American Idol'' contestant Josh Ledet sings during a concert Saturday night at Burton Coliseum in Lake Charles. (Michelle Higginbotham / Special to the American Press)
Last Modified: Tuesday, May 15, 2012 9:35 AM
Behind the scenes, officials dubbed Josh Ledet’s homecoming “Hurricane Josh” because of the short amount of time to prepare as he undoubtedly took Southwest Louisiana by storm.
Jason Barnes, a spokesman for Calcasieu Parish, said Ledet’s visit to Southwest Louisiana last weekend went very smoothly, considering the short amount of time that was available to prepare for such a massive operation.
“We treated this whole project like a hurricane,” Barnes said. “Think about all the security that goes into a day like Saturday. We had to come together very quickly. It had so many parallels to the way it takes to prepare for a hurricane. We were able to pull it off safely and give as much entertainment and security it takes.”
Barnes said that in meetings, Ledet’s visit was referred to as “Hurricane Josh.”
“It’s great that we can come together for something that makes a good impact on our community,” he said. “I think it is the largest crowd we have had at Burton Coliseum since 1977.”
Michael Dickerson, Westlake chief of police, said there were no criminal offenses, injuries or reports during the parade Saturday.
“The parade went rapidly and was very organized,” said Dickerson, who walked alongside Ledet during the parade. “Everything just went perfectly, which is surprising with 10,000 people.”
He said it was definitely a joint effort of many entities.“No way it could have happened without the support of Calcasieu, Cameron and Jeff Davis Parish,” he said. “There were a total of 12 different departments that came into Westlake to help.”
Hal McMillin, Westlake member of the Police Jury and outspoken Ledet fan, said it was a tremendous weekend for Westlake and all of Southwest Louisiana.
“It was a joint effort of a lot of people,” he said. “Southwest Louisiana absolutely showed off what a wonderful area the United States we are, as well as a tremendous culture with great people supporting Josh.”
He said that Ledet is “a very humble young man” and Ledet and his family were very gracious.
“The weekend turned out as well as it possibly could,” he said. “It was absolutely unbelievable to see the reaction from the fans, and I hope to see Josh make it to No. 1.”
Shelley Johnson, president of Southwest Louisiana Convention and Visitors Bureau, said she is relieved it went so well. The CVB played a key role in helping the producers of “American Idol,” Johnson said.
“There were nearly 200 people in meetings and up to 1,000 volunteers,” she said. “Something this big, the CVB would have liked to have had a month to three months to plan it, but we basically started talking about it a week prior to the elimination show last Thursday. We went into high gear with him coming in Friday evening with a press conference, Saturday with the parade, and Saturday night with that epic concert.”
Johnson said producers were mostly concerned with safety because of the big crowds.
More than 7,500 tickets were distributed within 56 minutes of an announcement being made, Johnson said.
“That shows you how much he means to Southwest Louisiana and how much he means to the state,” she said. “Josh sang his heart out yesterday. He was all over this area. I know they had private moments with him yesterday with his family, at his church, and at Westlake High School, as well as the public moments at Burton.”
She said though everything was hastily put together, she thinks “American Idol” will be able to showcase many Southwest Louisiana touches
“We were able to showcase Mardi Gras with the parade, and we ended with a performance at Contraband Days,” she said.
She also said that when Ledet first turned the corner onto Sampson Street, he was totally overcome with emotion by the crowds on the street.
“I think ‘American Idol’ producers were really able to see the color and culture, and the crew said they were very happy with all of the visuals,” Johnson said. “In fact the producers said they got every shot they needed.”
“American Idol” also got to film a private family crawfish boil, she said.
“I am so proud of our community and residents for the pride they showed for this young man,” Johnson said. “Josh said it was the best day of his life, which makes everything worth while.”
The video segments of Ledet’s homecoming will air on Wednesday’s “American Idol” broadcast.
Posted By: KT from Florida On: 5/15/2012
Title: Love It !!!!
We are natives of Lake Charles living in Florida...been watching since the beginning...Josh is AWESOME..hope he wins!!!
Posted By: Doug On: 5/14/2012
Great job, all. Just goes to show that taking months and months...even a year...to plan such a week-end is nothing but a waste of time and money; milking EVERY entity for the very last dollar.
Posted By: EMMA YOUNG On: 5/14/2012
This is the beginning of a suddenly touched moment that will last in the hearts and minds of everyone who experienced this event. I cry everytime I see or hear anything concerning this young man who is impacting the whole world with his amazing talent. Once again LOUISIANA should be very proud to have this in our backyards. WAY TO GO JOSH - WAY TO GO - REPRESENT - REPRESENT - AND THANKS FOR NOT HOLDING NOTHING BACK.