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Ashley Lower, Deseret News
Murray High School shows its support for "American Idol" finalist David Archuleta with a shrine of photos of him singing.

MURRAY — "American Idol" focused its national spotlight and millions of fans on David Archuleta and his Utah hometown in recent days. So, what do the Murray residents think of all that publicity?

"Mayor (Daniel) Snarr is such a great guy," Tom LaPoint of Murray's LaPoint Ford said of his friend, "but that handlebar mustache of his really makes us look like we are Hickville, USA," he said.

Images of the Murray mayor — complete with that handlebar mustache — as well as local businesses, the city and Murray High School were all included in a broadcast of "American Idol" this week.

"It definitely put us on the map," LaPoint said. "I think that is a cool thing."

Apparently, LaPoint is not the only one who thinks it's a "cool thing."

Several Murray businesses are displaying signs supporting Archuleta in their storefront windows, and it is hard to miss the gargantuan poster of a singing Archuleta on the east side of Murray High School. LaPoint Ford has two large signs outside its car lot displaying Archuleta's face. The dealership also loaned out some vehicles for "David's Day," including an orange Mustang, in which Archuleta rode while parading around the city. LaPoint said the company's support for Archuleta is just for fun and that it has not affected his business.

"It's a little premature to be too excited about it," LaPoint said. "David Cook could win it. I think he has a good chance of winning because he's a very popular guy, too."

But to have an American Idol from Murray would be a huge thing for the community, LaPoint said.

"It wouldn't be a bad thing," LaPoint said, "unless Archuleta does something stupid."

That doesn't seem likely.

Archuleta's neighbor and friend Claudia Aragon moved into the teen sensation's neighborhood three years ago. She said he was one of the first people she met when he offered to help her plant her flower garden.

"What kind of teenager would offer to help plant flowers?" Aragon said. "It was the cutest thing."

Friends, fellow students and even his teachers seem to agree — Archuleta is a good guy.

Heidi Hymas, 18, a Murray High senior, said she has known Archuleta since they were in a singing and dancing group together when they were 12 years old.

"I don't remember him dancing, just singing," Hymas said. She said she was a little surprised when she found out he had tried out for "American Idol."

"He's kind of shy," Hymas said, "but I knew he would make it."

Archuleta's friend Stacey Hansen, an 18-year-old Murray senior, said she didn't expect Archuleta to try out for "American Idol" so soon.

"He used to sing for me at my birthday parties," Hansen said. She now wishes she had recorded him singing to her.

Murray High choir teacher Scott Alan said he started hearing about Archuleta when the teen was in junior high.

Alan's students would go to concerts at the junior high and hear Archuleta sing solo parts. They would tell Alan about the younger teen's amazing voice.

"I thought, 'Eh, sure,'" Alan said.

Then he heard Archuleta when he was in the Murray High a cappella choir.

"He is a wonderful communicator," Alan said. "He is definitely a standout."

Murray High students Tanner Carr, Nate Hawkins and Tyler Rasband said that when they hang out with people from other schools or cities, Archuleta is the topic of conversation. Carr said even a friend of his who is serving an LDS mission in Ireland is asked if he knows Archuleta when people find out he is from Murray.

"I hear he's big in the Philippines, too," Hawkins said.

Whatever his Philippines fan base may be, Aragon and other neighborhood fans of Archuleta, called the "Arch Angels," are doing their part to boost local support of their "Idol."

They have tied white ribbons around the neighborhood. Aragon said the signs and balloons had to be taken down the day after "David's Day" because of the wind.

On Monday nights, Aragon and neighbors who want to join in parade around in their cars honking, yelling and playing Archuleta's music to remind people who to vote for the next night.

"It's crazy," Aragon said.

Murray High School public-relations specialist D. Wright said the Archuleta craze has been fun. The school doesn't expect to have this happen again, she said, so they are making the most of it. (But a reality series filmed at the school is planned.)

As far as the national attention, she said, "There is nothing negative about it."

But it may be strange.

"Girls were screaming over David's water bottle that he left from Friday," Wright said.

She said much of the Archuleta memorabilia from "David's Day" was stolen, including Wright's script for the events of the day and the notes that Paula Abdul sent about what songs Archuleta should sing.

"I want to check eBay to see if that stuff is on there," Wright said.

Mayor Snarr said Archuleta deserves all of the credit for the positive attention. He said Archuleta is the same in real life as he is on TV — a good guy. Snarr said he is pleased with how the community has pulled together for the Murray teen. "David's Day" occurred because many Murray groups cooperated and organized it.

"Murray is a hip town — and," the mustachioed Snarr said, "I'm not a hick."


E-mail: mbennett@desnews.com