SANTA CRUZ -- However it ends, the unlikely spectacle of Santa Cruz's James Durbin ascending to star status on America's top-rated TV show will inevitably include a homecoming.
And the question consuming Santa Cruz County's suddenly blossoming population of "American Idol" obsessives is: When?
Durbin could arrive in Santa Cruz for a triumphant return performance as soon as May 14.
Though Fox and "Idol" are providing no comment on the matter, the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk said that it was told by Fox that, if Durbin were to make the show's final three, "Idol" and Durbin would come to Santa Cruz that Saturday.
It is traditional on "American Idol" for the show to do hometown visits of its final three contestants. Currently, there are five singers left on the show, including Durbin. Thursday, that number will be reduced to four, and on May 12, the final three will emerge.
The Santa Cruz Chamber of Commerce has announced its intention to plan a homecoming celebration for Durbin. The Chamber has turned to the Boardwalk as the likely venue for the event. There is no official confirmation that the Boardwalk would be the chosen venue, but the Boardwalk is preparing for the opportunity, said communications manager Brigid Fuller.
"We made the decision a few weeks ago to get our beach stage ready earlier than normally scheduled," said Fuller, "just in case we learn that James would like to come to use the Boardwalk's stage."
Fuller also said the Boardwalk has researched how the top-three hometown visits have worked in previous years. "Idol" has worked with many municipalities over the years in planning these kinds of shows and its pattern has been to make quick-strike plans after the revealing of the top three finalists.
Durbin continues his odyssey tonight on Fox. Each of the five remaining performers will sing two songs each on a "Now and Then" theme, including one new song and one song from the 1960s.
Public voting on "American Idol" begins just after the live broadcast tape delayed on the West Coast. For more information on how to vote, go to www.americanidol.com.
When: 8 p.m. tonight