Winchester native HunterGirl slays final performance on American Idol
Winchester native Hunter Wolkonowski, also known as HunterGirl, slayed her final performance on the stage of American Idol.
The finale, held May 22, offered a stage to the three finalists: HunterGirl, Noah Thompson and Leah Marlene.
HunterGirl and Noah Thompson earned the most votes after the first round of voting.
Noah Thompson won the competition and will receive a $250,000 grand prize and a recording contract.
The contestants sang a Bruce Springsteen classic. HunterGirl slayed “Dancing in the Dark” and had the audience moving to the rhythm of the song.
“You’re really having fun with it,” Katy Perry said. “This is your stage. You brought your electricity.”
Lionel Richie told HunterGirl that she owned the stage.
“You now are responsible for your career and, my dear, you have a career,” Richie said.
The finalists also performed an original song they recently recorded. HunterGirl sang “Red Bird,” a song that “came straight from the heart,” she said. Seeing a red bird means someone is watching over you, said HunterGirl.
Luke Bryan applauded HunterGirl for her songwriting ability.
“Beautiful song,” Bryan said. “That’s how you write one – you take an experience and turn it into a song.”
Perry praised HunterGirl, as well.
“I want you to stay open and vulnerable and the beautiful human being that you are,” Perry said.
The top contestants had a chance to duet with famous musicians. Bryan performed with HunterGirl, singing Randy Travis' hit "I Told You So." Perry and Leah Marlene sang Perry's hit "Firework" and Noah Thompson performed with singer-songwriter Melissa Etheridge.
“It is apparent to all of us that your star is shining so bright,” Richie told HunterGirl after her final performance.
HunterGirl grew up in Winchester, Tennessee. She started performing at her local church and competing in various singing contests. Tennessee residents have supported HunterGirl from her first days as a contestant on American Idol. Proud of HunterGirl, they have been rooting throughout the entire process.
Oldham Theater in Winchester has offered free watch parties for community members to enjoy HunterGirl’s performances. Winchester welcomed HunterGirl and American Idol’s team on May 17 for a day filled with exciting activities honoring HunterGirl.
South Jackson Civic Center in Tullahoma also welcomed the community for a free event to enjoy HunterGirl’s talent. On May 20, Executive Director Greg Gressel said South Jackson Civic Center was ready to offer full support to HunterGirl.
“We are excited to provide this opportunity for our community as we rally around one of our own,” Gressel said. “HunterGirl has sung on the stage at South Jackson Performing Arts Center many times over the years. She has been a beloved member of our South Jackson Goes Country family.
South Jackson Goes Country is a country variety show that is now in its 43rd year at South Jackson. We have been a part of her past. We are a part of her present as we host this watch party and vote. And we hope to be a part of her future as she is launching into a very promising career. The event is free but if donations are made, they will be given to one of the veteran organizations that Hunter works with, Operation Song.”