The line wrapped around the entire Old Town Plaza and headed north to Church Street.
Eighteen-year-old Albuquerque resident Maxine Montana arrived at 4 a.m. Tuesday to be first in line.
“I’ve always wanted to try out,” she says. “As we wait here, I am getting more nervous.”
Montana has watched the show since she was 6 years old and always dreamed of making it big as a singer.
“I’ve been singing my whole life,” she said. “At least I get the chance to try out.”
The arrival of the “American Idol” bus in the Duke City on Tuesday marked the first time the show has come to Albuquerque for auditions.
“American Idol” debuted on the Fox network in 2002 and has had upwards of 40 million viewers in some seasons. In fact, for eight seasons from 2003-04 to 2010-11, it was the highest-rated television show in the country.
The concept of the show is to find new solo recording artists, with the winners receiving a recording contract with a major label. The show has spawned stars such as Carrie Underwood, Kelly Clarkson and Clay Aiken. Some winners have earned as much as $1 million in their first year after becoming a winner.
Patrick Lynn, a show producer, said he has scouted the city twice before and really wanted to bring auditions to New Mexico. He said the bus auditions give contestants a chance to try out without having to travel too far.
“Albuquerque has always been on my list because it’s a city that continues to grow,” he said.
Lynn said there are two buses traveling the nation currently – one on the East Coast and the other in the West. He said contestants who made it through the Albuquerque round will show up in Kansas City for another round of televised auditions in August.
The contestants who were successful Tuesday weren’t allowed to say whether they had moved on. They could only comment on their experience.
Lynn has been with “American Idol” since the first season, when he said no one expected much from the show.
“Then it became this juggernaut, and more people started showing up,” Lynn said. “We’ve been lucky to have such a great run.”
For Eli Lopez, 18, the chance to audition in his home state was special. To share the moment, he brought along his best friend, Riley Hand.
Lopez grew up playing guitar and has been in choir, as well as in his church music group.
“I started putting videos on YouTube of myself singing,” Lopez said. “This was the next step in the process. I’m trying to get myself out there.”
Meanwhile, Holly Ostler drove from outside Phoenix to audition – an experience she’s had before. Ostler had auditioned for the show in two other seasons, once in Chicago and once in Utah. “Even though I know what to expect, it still brings on my nerves,” she says.
To ease her nervousness, Ostler would randomly take a selfie while in front of the gazebo in Old Town.
“I’m trying to keep my mind clear,” she said.