Residents of Kellie Pickler's hometown filled parking lots to watch her on American Idol.
Albemarle, N.C. (pop. 16,000), is a city in the rolling hills of North Carolina's Piedmont, about 45 miles east of Charlotte. Textile was its lifeblood until most of the mills shut down in the '80s and '90s. The local economy now relies on light manufacturing, some agriculture and the service industries.
Its quaint downtown is undergoing a slow revival, but nothing has injected it with energy like the "Pickler Party" scene on Tuesday nights. Restaurants pack in customers with broadcasts of