LIBERTY - Nicholas Bishop, of Greenville, sang his way into the hearts of Liberty Idol fans Saturday night, landing him the top prize of $2,500 and the 2008 title.
Bishop brought the estimated crowd of 5,000 to their feet during his final performance, singing Michael Jackson's "Billy Jean," dancing across the stage with moves that would have made Jackson envious.
"Liberty Idol this year exceeded my expectations," said Roy Costner, developer and director of the event. "I thought, personally, that this was the best show ever.
"The event flowed well and the talent was just phenomenal," he said. "And our special guests were terrific, with Billy Craven (business manager and singer) coming down from
Nashville and (Asheville band) 45 Cherry's outstanding performance."
Costner said Liberty Idol became the success it is due mostly to a community coming together and working together.
"So many people went out of their way to help," he said. "It was just great all around."
During the 13 weeks of the competition, singers and fans raised $4,519.00 to be donated to the Ronald McDonald House Charities. A single donation, arriving in the final moments, increased that total to an even $5,000.
"That was amazing, for someone to donate enough to bring it up to five thousand," Costner said. "When we started out, I didn't know what to expect, but I never expected that (Liberty Idol) would bring in five thousand dollars.
William Sorochak, chief executive officer with Ronald McDonald House Charities of the Carolinas, said the money raised through Liberty Idol donations would help the local house, near Greenville Memorial Hospital.
"Money raised here in Liberty will stay in the area," Sorochak said. "It will benefit those right here in the Upstate."
Liberty Police Chief Leland "Corky" Miller said his department had encountered few problems during the event's 13 weeks of drawing crowds to the city's business district.
"We had a couple of arrests for public disorderly," he said. "And there were a few kids who were fighting in the parking lot, but their parents were notified and that was taken care of."
Costner said that he was impressed that so many people of different walks of life and of varying ages could gather in one place without any incidents occurring.
"I haven't heard of anything happening," he said. "It has just been a great experience for Liberty and everyone who came out."
Misty Holder, of Six Mile, placed second in the event, with Jennifer Johnson, of Greenville, the third place winner.
Ryan Gillespie and Derek Brackett, who was selected as an alternate contestant in last week's elimination round and who replaced Travis Owens, rounded out the top five singers in Saturday's final night.
Voting was tight in selecting the winner, Liberty Mayor Brian Deese said.
"There wasn't a huge margin between the contestants," he said.
Costner said earlier that the 2008 Liberty Idol proved to offer some of the area's finest talents in the event's three year history.
Lisa Rollins, of WORD fame, served as one of the event's celebrity guest judges and said Liberty Idol has made her more aware of the offerings of a smaller town.
"This has opened my eyes," she said. "My husband and I have been looking at houses in this area.
"I would move here in a minute," she said. "I love the people of Liberty and everyone has been so kind. I am going to miss being here every week."