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'X Factor' Long Island auditions: 16,000-plus flock to Nassau Coliseum

Aspiring singers and groups descended upon the Nassau

Aspiring singers and groups descended upon the Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale today for auditions for season three of the Fox show "X Factor." Those looking to wow the judges with their talent needed to register and get a wristband before the event. (April 25, 2013) Credit: Jessica Rotkiewicz

The sight of more than 16,000 people auditioning their hearts out Thursday at Nassau Coliseum for a chance to appear on "The X Factor" would have been enough to make even Simon Cowell crack a smile.

Hopefuls began lining up at 5:30 a.m. for a shot to be on the Fox musical competition's third season. Each had hopes of going home with a golden ticket, signifying advancement to the next round.

The audition turnout was the largest in the program's history, causing producers to extend auditions into Friday as well. "This is the first time we've ever done that," said executive producer Rob Wade. "We are incredibly excited about it. This is huge for us."

"X Factor" contestants are expected to have more than just musical talent. The show, based on a popular British series, is about appearance, personality, stage presence and that special element that makes one stand out.

Joseph Oppici, 13, of Shirley, prepared to sing "Rumour Has It" by Adele. "I want to get my voice out there and be one of the greats," he said with his parents and little sister by his side.

Morell Brown, 16, of Middle Island, said he felt he's got what it takes. "I'm a very classy person," he said. "People tell me I've got swag."

"The X Factor" came specifically to Long Island scouting for talent. "We love the spirit of Long Island. It really reflects the personality of the East Coast," Wade said. "We've heard a lot of great things about Long Island people, and we are here to see if it's all true."

At age 52, Lisa Stone of Merrick braved the long lines for five hours Tuesday just to get a bracelet for Thursday's line. "I felt I had to give myself a chance," she said. "Everybody has a little something no matter how old you are."

Although the official panel wasn't on hand Thursday, Cowell, Demi Lovato and two yet-to-be-named judges for season three will come to the Coliseum this summer filming performances of contestants who make it through to the next round. The footage will air during the audition episodes in the fall.

"We are looking for that secret something," said executive producer Andrew Llinares. "It's a strange energy that makes someone a superstar."

The contestants who will advance to the next round exited the Coliseum via an underground tunnel that lets out in front of the Marriott in Uniondale. Clutching their golden tickets, they were instructed to return Friday morning at 6:30 a.m. for the next round.

Ashley Estrella, 14, of Holtsville won over the judges with her rendition of Amy Winehouse's "Rehab." Despite having no performance experience at all, she nailed it.

"I thought I had a chance," she says. "They told me to just go for it so I did."

Decked out in all black -- Johnny Cash-style -- Pete Filippone, 51, of Selden charmed his way through "If You Could Read My Mind" by Gordon Lightfoot and the Elvis Presley version of "My Way." However, he admitted to being nervous.

"I thought I was going to be in front of a group of judges, but I was in a personal booth with one person," he said. "It's easier to sing in front of a million than one person."

After knocking out Corinne Bailey Rae's "Put Your Records On," Marchella Tocco, 14, of Glen Head believes she's ready to take on Simon Cowell.

"He's a little intimidating, but I'd get through it," she said. "I can handle it."

Seventeen year-old Steven Telsey skipped his math test Thursday at Great Neck South High School for good reason -- one of those golden tickets. "They told me to keep singing," he said. "I went from Leonard Cohen's 'Hallelujah' to the Plain White T's 'Hey There Delilah' to Jason Mraz's 'I'm Yours.' My head was spinning!"

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