Braving showers and unseasonably cold winds, some contestants showed up around 3 a.m. Sunday at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough. They formed a line that eventually stretched the length of the stadium and into the parking lot.
Host Ryan Seacrest said the bad weather may have been a plus for contestants since it likely reduced the field of competitors. "If you're auditioning, you want pouring rain, you want freezing weather," Seacrest said. "It makes the weak stay home."
His advice: Show up, sing well, move on.
The kickoff auditions attracted around 7,000 contestants from all over the East Coast, including New England, New York and as far south as North Carolina.
Contestants wore high heels, cowboy hats, and sported umbrellas declaring that they were the next big thing. But to move on, they had to convince the first-round screeners that they were worthy of a call back.
"It would mean the world to me," said Brittany Edgett, 25, a resident of "four or five towns" in New Hampshire. "I'm just trying to make a better life for me and my daughter and my boyfriend ... trying to get a little better in life than what we've been dealt so far."
Besides having talent, courage and perhaps a thick skin, auditioners must also be between the ages of 16 and 28 and eligible to work in the United States.
Tiffany "Shorty" Dorsey, 20, of Walpole, Mass., believed she had all that. While waiting in line for more than four hours, the 20-year-old used gel and other chemicals to fashion her hair into a faux mohawk. She promised to sing and dance to "Play That Funky Music" for the judges.
"I've got my friends with me. I'm loving it," Dorsey said.
Others fought to keep up with their planned wardrobe as the rains came. Melody Nardone, 26, of Buffalo, N.Y., called the weather "treacherous" while she struggled to keep her makeup fresh. "My mascara was running," she said.
Marcela Cruz, of Lowell, Mass., said she couldn't sleep the night before. The 18-year-old University of New Hampshire student nervously stood in line while she practiced her version of the song "Fever."
"I'm thinking I want to go to sleep," Cruz said. "(But) I want to sing. I want to go to Hollywood."
Seacrest said the dramatic end to last season kept the show fresh and viewers should expect more seasons. "There's always a twist," he said.
After more than a four-hour wait, performers were herded into the stadium where 14 tents with a panel of judges awaited to evaluate them. Those who make the first cut will be called back later.
Auditions for the popular Fox TV show will be held in six other cities during the next several weeks: Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, Orlando and Denver. The next are scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday in Atlanta.
By Russell Contreras