BRANDON – (AP) Every week on Fox’s American Idol, a contestant performs, the celebrity judges critique, and a camera shows families’ reactions.
The 17 million people watching the broadcasts probably don’t realize what goes into getting those families to those seats every Wednesday and Thursday night – like tonight, when the Top 8 perform songs of the ’80s.
Brandon’s Ed and Mary Harden know all about it. Their 18-year-old daughter, Skylar Laine, is in Idol’s Top 8. The show doesn’t pay families’ travel expenses.
“We’ve had to make sacrifices,” Mary Harden told The Clarion-Ledger. “But the last thing I want to do is come off like I’m whining. I think most parents dream of something like this happening for one of their children. It’s a privilege and an honor and a huge blessing for Skylar to have this opportunity.”
Mary runs Beatty Street Grocery with her parents in downtown Jackson but has been in Hollywood for all but about 12 days since Skylar performed with the Top 24 in February. Ed, a retired school administrator who works for ServiceMaster in Pearl, has also been there for much of it.
Flights, hotel rooms, rental cars, food … the cost adds up. The Hardens rent a car by the month and found a reasonable extended-stay hotel. “Food … now that’s the killer because we’re always eating out,” Ed Harden said.
He’s been cashing life insurance policies.
“Looking back, I realize now it was the Lord’s way of getting us prepared for this,” he said. “And I’ve told Mary, ‘If we have to spend the last dime of those policies, we’re going to enjoy this time with Skylar.’ This will only happen once in our lifetime.”