"Idol" mania descends on Utah Friday as hometown favorite David Archuleta is honored, feted and celebrated.

The Big Event comes in the afternoon when tens of thousands of fans are expected to descend on Murray High, where Archuleta attended school until he became an "American Idol" finalist.

But he'll be kept running throughout the day. Among the scheduled stops are appearances on Fox 13's morning show at 7 a.m.; on KZHT-FM 97.1 at 8:30 a.m.; on K-Bull FM-93 at 9:30 a.m.; and at the AT&T store at the Gateway at 10:30 a.m.

Channel 13's Web site, myfoxutah.com, will stream hourly updates, and both the Web site and KSTU-Ch. 13 will cover the pep rally live from 4-5:30 p.m.

And Murray High School, 5440 S. State St., will become the center of the local "Idol" universe with a big pep rally at 4:15 p.m.

While the weather forecast for Friday afternoon isn't overly optimistic, the folks in Murray are trying to be. They aren't going to let anything rain on their parade — the Archuleta plans won't change, no matter what the skies decide.

"We are having a party whether it rains or not. But it is not going to rain," Murray City chief of staff Jan Wells said with a laugh.

Archuleta will be followed throughout the day — from the time he arrives at Ch. 13 for the 7 a.m. show until he performs the national anthem just before the 7 p.m. Jazz/Lakers game and beyond — by "American Idol" cameras. "American Idol" will use footage from Archuleta's day, as well as from similar events scheduled in the hometowns of fellow finalists David Cook (Kansas City, Mo.) and Syesha Mercado (Bradenton/Sarasota, Fla.) in Tuesday's episode of the top-rated TV show.

And, with the competition down to three, the most recently eliminated "Idol" finalist isn't venturing a guess about who'll win.

"I have no idea," Jason Castro said in a conference call with TV critics Thursday. "Everybody's pretty strong."

Castro received the lowest number of votes in this week's voting.

The finalist famous for his dreadlocks and laid-back manner pointed out that Archuleta "has been strong this whole time," as has Cook.

"And Syesha's been fighting all along, making it through (despite being in the) bottom three every week."

Mercado has been in the bottom two or three of the voting five times.

"It's really anybody's game. We'll see how America sways," Castro said.

And we'll see if Archuleta's big day in Utah will help sway any votes when it's aired on Tuesday's installment of "Idol." Murray City officials anticipate a crowd of 20,000 for Friday afternoon's pep rally, which has all the potential for a traffic nightmare in the area of State Street and 5300 South.

City officials urge those who plan to attend to take TRAX to the Murray Central station and walk approximately a block to Murray High. TRAX will be add extra cars.

Parking will be available at Hillcrest Junior High (across the street from Murray High at 126 E. 5300 South); in the Murray Park lots (northeast of Murray High on the east side of State Street); LaPointe Ford (which will open 250 spaces at its location just south of Murray High); and at the Intermountain Medical Center (which will allow fans to park in available spaces).

As for the event itself, here's a quick rundown:

• 3:30: Gates open at Murray High. No one other than Murray students will be allowed on campus earlier.

• 3:30-4:15 p.m.: Break dancers will perform at the entrances; Murray High performers will entertain inside the stadium.

• 4:15 p.m.: Pep rally begins; Murray High cheerleaders, pep band, a cappella choir, drill team and dance company perform, joined by the Real Salt Lake and Utah Blaze mascots.

• 4:30 p.m.: David Archuleta and his family arrive in a parade of dignitaries that include Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr., Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon and Murray Mayor Dan Snarr. The 45-minute event will include presentations, proclamations, two or three songs by Archuleta and a hot-air balloon lift-off.

• 5:15 p.m.: Archuleta and his party head for the EnergySolutions Arena, where he'll sing the national anthem before the Jazz-Lakers game. (It won't be televised, but plans call for it to be aired on "American Idol" Tuesday.)

If you go . . .

The American Idol Tour, featuring David Archuleta, will hit the E Center in West Valley City on Monday, July 14, at 7 p.m.

Tickets, ranging in price from $39.50-$68.50, will go on sale Saturday, May 17, at 10 a.m. at all Smithstix outlets and the E Center box office.


E-mail: pierce@desnews.com