BATON ROUGE -- Laine Hardy needed a few extra minutes to gather himself.
Outside the black stretch limo he sat in were fans holding up signs, reporters holding cameras, and Gov. John Bel Edwards holding an executive order — all wanting a glimpse of the American Idol star.
“This is so crazy,” Hardy told Edwards on the footsteps of the Governor’s Mansion.
It’s about to get even crazier.
Hardy, the Livingston Parish native who recently advanced to the Top 3 of the nationally-televised reality singing competition, kicked off his superstar homecoming by spending the morning touring the Governor’s Mansion with the The Governor and First Lady.
Each of the three finalists returned to their hometowns for day-long celebrations before they head back to Los Angeles for the May 19 finale on ABC.
Fans of Hardy — who Idol host Ryan Seacrest dubbed "The Bayou Boy" — arrived outside the gated mansion around 5:30 a.m., with many bringing their own signs that read “Geaux Laine” and “Party with a Hardy.” One woman said she and her four children made the drive from their home in French Settlement to attend Laine’s visit.
“We live about two minutes from Laine,” she said.
Hardy arrived in a black limo around 6 a.m., just as more than 30 University High students lined the driveway in front of the Governor’s Mansion with their signs and Laine Hardy posters.
Once the limo pulled up, out stepped Hardy, dressed casually in a T-shirt, blue jeans, a cap pulled down low, and his customary hunting boots.
“I went to Los Angeles in these boots, and I flew back home in these boots,” Hardy told Donna Edwards.
“You two should hang out,” the First Lady joked, nodding toward her husband.
After shaking hands and exchanging pleasantries, the Edwards took Hardy on a quick tour of the Governor’s Mansion. Inside were other elected officials, including Livingston Parish President Layton Ricks, Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser, Rep J. Rogers Pope, Rep. Valarie Hodges, Rep. Clay Schexnayder, Sen. Dale Erdey, Sen. Eddie Lambert, and Town of Livingston Mayor David McCreary.
During the visit, Gov. Edwards also presented an official proclamation declaring it “Laine Hardy Day” in the state.
“I’m issuing an executive order that today, the entire state of Louisiana is going to party with a Hardy,” Edwards said, drawings more cheers from the young fans on the steps of the mansion.
“I don’t know what to say,” said Hardy, who later shook hands with fans and waved goodbye before hopping back in the limo for his next destination.
The visit to the Governor’s Mansion was the first of several appearances for the 18-year-old singer during his return home.
Hardy will appear at his alma mater, French Settlement High School, for a closed celebration, followed by a parade and concert in the Town of Livingston later Tuesday afternoon.