RICHMOND, Va. – "American Idol" finalist Elliott Yamin took a break from Hollywood Friday to treat fans in his hometown to a performance of the appropriately titled "Home," by Michael Buble.
"This is the happiest day of my life," Yamin told around 4,000 screaming fans who crowded into a downtown plaza to catch a glimpse of the 27-year-old, one of just three contestants left on Fox's popular singing competition. The ultimate winner will be announced May 24.
Yamin was in town for a whirlwind tour that included a parade in his honor and a performance at the opening of the Richmond Braves minor league baseball game. Richmond Mayor L. Douglas Wilder also presented Yamin with the key to the city.
"We know that Virginia is caught up in Elliott mania," Wilder said. "He is an ambassador for all of us, for all Virginians."
Wilder told Yamin and those who had gathered that he'd just received a fax from "Idol" judge Paula Abdul, in which she revealed the song she had chosen for Yamin to sing in next week's show: "What You Won't Do for Love," by Bobby Caldwell.
"I never knew how powerful a voice can be," Yamin told fans, who cheered and waved signs that read, "The Yamin Machine" and "Go Elliot!" "To be able to sing and share it — share that voice with you all, it just means the world to me."
Yamin and his mother, Claudette Yamin, later visited Gov. Timothy M. Kaine, who clapped and grinned as Yamin hopped out of his stretch limo through the window and greeted the governor's staff.
"I feel like the luckiest person," Yamin said, hugging Kaine.
Inside the governor's mansion, Kaine presented Yamin with a T-shirt that read, "Virginia is for Elliott Lovers," and another to help butter up the show's most cantankerous judge: "Virginia is for Simon Lovers."
"You've really captured everybody's imagination," Kaine told Yamin.
Before "American Idol," Yamin — who is 90 percent deaf in his right ear — hadn't done much public singing outside of karaoke, and a few performances with a band.
"It's just amazing," Yamin told reporters earlier Friday. "You kind of give up your anonymous lifestyle for this ... but it's all totally worth it. I'm out here chasing my dream and it's just so cool to have all these people behind me."
Yamin, once considered the underdog in the competition, said he didn't initially think he'd make it to the top three.
"Starting off, you know, you get to the stadium and you see 10,000 people," he said. "You're just lucky if you get an audition."
"I'm just thankful that I, you know, was heard and that I had that shot and that opportunity and took advantage of it," he added.