Lee County is looking more like Nashville South these days with the talent that is moving to the national stage.
Country star Luke Bryan's stock has been steadily rising for a while, and now Phillip Phillips is taking his own brand of music to the national stage, making the finals of "American Idol" and getting past the first cut of that last 13 contestants on Thursday night. Just as local voters beat out much larger venues in an online contest to get Bryan's concert in which he debuted the songs on his second album in Leesburg, the community has been lining up to show support for Phillips as he competes for "Idol's" big prize in Los Angeles.
It had to do Phillips some good to know that the folks back home were gathering at Lee County High School to cheer him on. On Wednesday, Phillips became the fourth person to be awarded a key to the city of Leesburg, an honor that had previously been bestowed on Bryan, San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey and centenarian Eloise Green.
"Everyone in Leesburg is proud of Phillip Phillips," Leesburg Mayor Jim Quinn said Wednesday when he presented Phillips' parents, Donnie and Sheryl Phillips, the symbolic key. "... We couldn't be more pleased with how he's represented the city and Lee County."
Indeed, like Bryan and Posey, Phillips has been a good ambassador for the county and for Southwest Georgia as a whole.
It appears the community is getting behind the Phillips family as they anxiously wait to see how this wild "idol" ride turns out.
The Phillipses say the one major downside to the competition is the financial barriers to their being in the audience when their son sings. They can't seek help to defray the travel, food and lodging expenses because of constraints in the family's contract with "Idol," which won't help with the costs.
Rob Coulter, a local website operator, has approached some businesses in the area asking them to donate funds into a bank account set up to help the family make those long, expensive trips. He says several businesses have pledged to help with the fund as long as Phillips remains in the competition.
It's good to see a community get behind one of its own, and it's equally gratifying that the effort should enable the Phillipses to share a special, once-in-a-lifetime experience with their son.
-- The Albany Herald Editorial Board