Serenaded by an "American Idol"
STEVEN LANE/The Columbian
Melinda Doolittle sings to Emalyn Van House, 6, right, and Rylan Mosgrove, 4, during a private concert Wednesday at the home of Alison and Mark Van House. Alison Van House won a contest sponsored by Dreyer’s Ice Cream. The prize was an ice cream party and the concert by Doolittle, the third-place finisher on “American Idol” last year.
Thursday, March 13, 2008
By MIKE BAILEY, Columbian Staff Writer
When Alison Van House of Vancouver entered the Dreyer’s Slow Churned American Idol contest, she never really thought through what it might be like to win.
“I never thought I would have about 24 hours to get the house ready for a party,” Van House said.
The Dreyer’s contest promised the winner an ice cream party and a personal concert by Melinda Doolittle, last year’s third-place finisher on TV’s hit show “American Idol.”
Van House, 28, learned Tuesday that her online vote for a favorite flavor of ice cream was randomly chosen as the contest winner.
To get ready to enjoy her winnings, she invited 25 friends and family members to join her and her husband Mark as well as their two children for the one-hour Dreyer’s ice cream party and concert Wednesday night.
The concert Doolittle delivered at Van House’s home is part of a 20-city tour sponsored by the ice cream company. Contests are being held in each city with all the winners receiving the same prize. To be considered, winners had to vote for their favorite flavor of ice cream from a list of concoctions inspired by the “American Idol” television show. Van House’s pick: Mint Karaoke Cookie.
The online contest for the Vancouver-Portland area drew more than 1,600 entries.
Doolittle said performing a concert for a small crowd is tougher than being on stage in front of thousands of people.
“It’s a little scary,” she said of the home concerts. “Because you can look right at their faces. But the cool thing is, it turns out to be fun for me because the people at the party pick the songs they want to hear.”
Doolittle said Wednesday’s concert was typical of most of her home concerts. The exception was the interaction she had with several young children at the concert.
“These kids had to be the cutest kids I have ever seen,” Doolittle said. “I’ve never had kids come up and dance with me. They even gave me an impromptu concert after I sang the last song. I had a blast with the kids.”
Doolittle endeared herself early with the crowd, posing for photos and signing autographs for more than 30 minutes. She even snuggled on the floor with Van House’s 2-year-old Elizabeth as half a dozen cell phone cameras flashed.
Doolittle said she understands how intimidating it can be to host an “Idol” star on short notice.
“I think they are nervous when they find out they won,” she said. “Most frantically begin cleaning their house. Once I’m there, I usually have to break the ice because we’re all standing there and they don’t know what to do. It takes a few minutes.”
After warming up the crowd with the song “Have a Nice Day,” Doolittle sang “My Funny Valentine.” Van House’s oldest daughter, Emalyn, turned to a friend and whispered, “She’s really good,” during the song.
“Every house is going to be different but this one, especially with the kids, was a lot of fun for me,” she said. “In the end, we all realize we’re just real people hanging out and bonding over a bowl of ice cream.”
Van House became a fan of Doolittle after watching last season’s “American Idol.”
“I watched most of the shows and really thought Melinda was great,” she said.
It’s all part of a winning streak for Van House during the past year.
In addition to the concert and party, she won two other contests that had cash prizes of $500 and a $1,000 shopping spree.
“I guess I’m one of those people who tends to win sometimes,” she said.
Mike Bailey can be reached at 360-735-4510 or firstname.lastname@example.org