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'Idol' finalist has family ties in DL

Last Wednesday, Detroit Lakes resident Linda Wiedmann had a dilemma.

On one hand she was to be at a meeting in the Detroit Country Club. On the other hand, she wanted to watch her great niece, Jordin Sparks, perform on "American Idol." She compromised and achieved both.

Every now and then, she'd duck out of the meeting to head into the bar area where there were two televisions, one of which she switched over to the results show to see if her niece had been voted into the top two. She was.

"I jumped up in the air and was screaming," she said, adding that the men eating in the bar probably thought she was crazy.

Fixed on the television week after week, Wiedmann has been following her great niece's progression through the competition. She even went to Los Angeles with her daughter, Laura, and son, David, to watch Sparks perform.

It was the week of April 10-11, when Jennifer Lopez was the guest mentor on the show, and there were eight contestants left.

Wiedmann said she's not surprised that Sparks has made it this far in the competition.

"Since she has learned how to talk, she's been singing," she said. "It's just a natural talent."

Sparks, 17, auditioned in Seattle, but lives in Glendale, Ariz. Wiedmann explained that Sparks first auditioned in Los Angeles and was passed by. She then participated in an "American Idol" contest in Arizona and won. From there, she had the opportunity to audition in Seattle for the three judges -- Paula Abdul, Simon Cowell and Randy Jackson. She has had no formal training in singing.

Wiedmann has been watching "American Idol" since the end of the first season, and she admits to being a Clay Aiken fan. But this year, there's obviously much more invested in the program.

At the start of the season, Wiedmann's husband was very sick with cancer. One thing they could do, though, was watch his great niece on "American Idol." (Sparks is Wiedmann's husband's brother's granddaughter.)

About a week before Wiedmann and her two children went to Los Angeles to see Sparks perform, Wiedmann's husband died. Her mother-in-law had also just passed away.

"It's an emotional time," she said. "Jordin has definitely been a bright spot."

Wiedmann said everyone in the family felt Sparks has the potential to win and knew it from the start.

"She has handled it (the competition) so well for her age. She has had a lot of fun doing it. We're just real proud of her."

Besides a "very, very natural" talent to sing and perform, Wiedmann said Sparks has grown up somewhat in the public eye, which has "given her more confidence." Her father, Phillippi Sparks, played football for the New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys.

Thankfully, she said, Sparks has a very supportive family and will keep her grounded after her "American Idol" fame likely launches her into music contracts.

After Wednesday's result show, Wiedmann talked to Sparks. "She said it hasn't even registered" that she's in the final competition.

This isn't the first singing competition Sparks has won, but certainly the biggest and most publicized.

"The ball was already rolling (before 'American Idol'). This is just going to catapult it."

There is a gathering for friends, family and basically anyone who plans on voting for Sparks on Tuesday night, beginning at 5:30, in the House of Rock, Playmakers, Fargo.

Sparks' grandparents live in Fargo. Wiedmann's son, Todd, also lives in the area, near Audubon, with his wife, Rhonda, and three boys, Brody, Chase, and Rece: "All huge Jordin fans as well," Wiedmann says.

While Wiedmann would have liked to have gotten tickets to see Sparks' final performance on "American Idol," she'll settle for watching her on the big screen at House of Rock.

"Everybody needs to watch, and everybody needs to vote," she said.