'American Idol' draws Long Island talent in show's first area auditions

Long Islanders and travelers from afar descended on Nassau Coliseum for a round of 'American Idol' tryouts on July 23, 2014. (Credit: Newsday / Jeffrey Basinger)

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Abigail Rentas, 18, of Bellport stood near the barricades of Nassau Coliseum with her dad Wednesday, hoping that she might be the next "American Idol." Rentas won the most recent Bellport Idol competition and has been waiting to try out for the real thing.

Farther back, Sade Simmons, 19, of Freeport milled about nervously. "My mom gave me the confidence to do it," she said, glancing up at the doors as the pack moved toward them.

Both were among the more than 3,000 hopefuls who lined up Wednesday at the Coliseum for the first-ever Long Island auditions of "American Idol." In past seasons, the show has had talent searches in Manhattan and New Jersey.

"We always get people from this area," says Patrick Lynn, the show's senior supervising producer. "We decided it's time to come out to the Island, to come to the source."

Ashley Appell, 27, sat in the shade with her mother, Donna, both of Oyster Bay. Appell, who has Hermansky-Pudlak Syndrome (HPS), a rare genetic disorder that can cause visual impairment and lead to pulmonary fibrosis, began singing as way to help her lungs. Her mom is the founder and president of HPS Network, an international nonprofit organization.

"Everybody has a story," says Ashley Appell, who came to "dare to be rare," a motto of the HPS Network. She was contemplating her song choice, she said, smiling from behind a pair of dark sunglasses. Holding a long white cane in her hand, she was still debating between "If I Loved You" from the musical "Carousel," or "Alone" by Heart.

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Registration opened at 6 a.m., though some had arrived in the wee hours of the morning. Inside the arena, singers between the ages of 15 and 28 tried out in front of what Lynn calls "table producers." Those who made it through return Thursday to audition for the executive producers. Lynn said only about 150 will get to sing for celebrity judges Jennifer Lopez, Harry Connick Jr. and Keith Urban at a yet to be determined future date. The next step after that is Hollywood Week in October or November.

"AI" producers continue to Nashville Wednesday.

Stephanie Coiro, 26, of West Islip, walked out with the first golden ticket Wednesday after singing "From This Valley" by The Civil Wars. Later, Ben Bonnet, 22, of Elmont, followed. Bonnet was excited, but already looking ahead. "I'm going to get some rest, get hydrated and come back tomorrow with everything prepared," he said. "I don't want to have any regrets."

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