Calcasieu welcomes Joshua Ledet
LAKE CHARLES -- It didn't rain on Joshua Ledet's parade. With a pushed-up start time of noon because of a weather forecast warning of showers, a Mardi-Gras style parade Saturday welcomed the "American Idol" top-three contestant home to Westlake.
Crowds lined Sampson Street as "Idol's" stretch limousine pulled into the Westlake Multipurpose Complex, the place where the 20-year-old worked before heading to Hollywood to compete in season 11 of the popular Fox reality singing competition series.
Fans swarmed around the limo, holding up cellphones to take photos, as Ledet emerged from the car and was whisked into the center. From the rear of the building, Ledet hopped into the back of a black Mustang convertible for his parade through town, which ended at his alma mater, Westlake High School.
As the singer, who describes his style as soulful pop, passed, his fans yelled and waved, many holding homemade posters saying, "We love you Josh!," "Josh, you're our Idol!" and "Way to go, Josh!"
The wording and photo on one poster stood out in particular.
"Hey Josh, will you ..." was written next to a photo of Ledet, dressed in a tuxedo, and Courtney Braxton, decked out in an evening gown.
"It's not photoshopped. She went to the prom (Sulphur High School's) with Josh last year," said Courtney's mother, Elonda Braxton, of Mossville.
"But the question, it's sort of a joke," the mother said, when asked if this was a serious marriage proposal.
"I talked to him (Josh) this morning at church," Courtney Braxton said, adding that there was a church-members-only gathering at The House of Prayer in Westlake, where both she and Ledet worship. "He sang some ‘Idol' songs, and hugged everybody."
When the raised-on-gospel singer spotted her daughter's sign, Elonda Braxton said, Ledet responded by telling her daughter, "I love you, Courtney!" then lowered his head and started to cry.
Courtney "was already crying," Elonda Braxton said.
Nearby, Rhonda Jordan, of Westlake, a close family friend of the Braxtons, was wearing one of her "Joshua Ledet" T-shirts. She planned to change into her new "Joshua Top 3" shirt for the pep rally and concert later. She waited in line three hours Friday night to buy the garment.
"I'm a previous ‘American Idol' fan. I had kind of drifted away for the last few years, but definitely when Josh was on, I watched every episode. It's absolutely awesome, you see the crowd, you see the crowd, the frenzy is crazy because we've never had this happen here before. We are so excited. We are thrilled and we're looking for him to go all the way."
The Mardi Gras mood continued at the 6 p.m. pep rally and concert at Burton Coliseum in Lake Charles. The coliseum was filled to capacity by the 7,500 people who had obtained free tickets to the show.
Warm-up acts were Ledet's first cousin, Brandon Ledet, and his zydeco band, Creole Touch, followed by Terrance Simien and the Zydeco Experience. Simien and company charged up the crowd, throwing Carnival beads and urging the fans to chant "Josh!" A wave began around the coliseum, further adding to the audience's enthusiasm.
Just after 7 p.m., Ledet arrived, riding a Carnival float onto the facility floor.
"This is ridiculous. I can't believe how many people showed up to support me," Ledet said after taking the stage.
He thrilled the fans with songs he's performed on "Idol" - Percy Sledge's "When A Man Loves a Woman," the Bee Gees' "To Love Somebody," Indie.Arie's "I'm Ready for Love," Fantasia's "I Believe" and ending with James Brown's "It's A Man's World."
Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne came on stage to tell Ledet that the singer has been named the state's official ambassador and that Sunday is not only Mother's Day, but Joshua Ledet Family Day in Louisiana.
"We love you, we're proud of you and you're going to be the next American Idol," Dardenne said.
"This is the craziest day of my life," said Ledet, who's now known around his hometown as "the biggest thing since Hurricane Rita."
Ledet's next "Idol" performance, when he will be competing for a spot in the finale, is at 7 p.m. Wednesday on WGMB, Channel 44 (cable Channel 6).