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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

No place like home: Fans swarm Tracy mall to welcome Thia Megia




By Zachary K. Johnson

MOUNTAIN HOUSE - Where's Mountain House?

Thanks to the 10th season of the still-popular "American Idol" television show, the people living in the town that didn't exist a decade ago have an answer to that question.

It's where Thia Megia calls home.

Mountain House residents were among the millions of people watching the 16-year-old sing, and hundreds of them showed up to the San Joaquin County town's Central Park to welcome her home Saturday afternoon.

"It's so heartwarming for me," Megia said, her voice soft-spoken compared to the pipes she's shown on stage. "It's amazing to get this much support from my hometown."

Megia and the community swapped keepsakes. The youngest contestant on the show received certificates from luminaries such as Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, county Sheriff Steve Moore and county Supervisor Leroy Ornellas.

And fans got to meet the pop star, who posed for pictures and signed autographs. Right after a brief ceremony on a stage in the park, the autograph line grew to 200 strong. Hundreds more were part of the gathering, which was more like a festival with a ring of food carts to feed the families and fans. Before, she had stopped at a mall in Tracy.



What was missing was Megia's singing. That would have conflicted with her contract with American Idol, organizers said. But she will be singing in public on a summer tour with other finalists. Though she was eliminated from the competition last month, she stayed in the running long enough to qualify for the tour. Megia said she didn't know how close the tour would be stopping to Mountain House this summer.

Megia used to live in Hawyard before her family moved to Mountain House, an unincorporated town on the Alameda County border with a population of nearly 10,000, according to census data. In 2000, only a few hundred people lived in the area before the master-planned community began to grow.

It's garnered national attention during the peak of the housing crisis as the most "underwater" community in America. In 2008, the New York Times reported 90 percent of homeowners in Mountain House owed more on their mortgage than their homes were worth.

But on Saturday, residents said they were proud of both Megia and the town she's from.

"She put Mountain House on the map," said Tanya Shelton, 40, who has lived in the town for five years. She was waiting in the autograph line with her daughter, Taylor, 5. Tanya Shelton said Megia is both humble and talented, a good role model for Taylor and a good representative for the town. Taylor goes to school with Megia's family, too, she said.

And the celebration in the park showed just how great Mountain House is, Shelton said.

Now, a lot more people know where that is.

"Thanks to Thia, millions of people are saying: Where's Mountain House?" said Celeste Farron, vice president of the town's elected governing board.


via RecordNet.com

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