By STEVE EIGHINGER
Herald-Whig Staff Writer
The first thing Aspen Gengenbacher did after winning Friday's WGEM Fox Tri-States Idol singing competition at the Quincy Mall was text her dad.
It was a good thing.
"I was going nuts, wondering how she had done," proud pop Ron Gengenbacher said. "I had been there earlier to hear her sing, but I had to get back to work. I was waiting to hear from her."
The excruciating wait (at least for her dad) proved to be worth it. He'll definitely be there the next time she sings, which will be Aug. 4 at the "American Idol XIV" audition in Nashville, Tenn.
When Aspen received her "silver ticket" to Nashville, it guaranteed her a tryout in front of American Idol producers and the opportunity to meet the program's three judges -- Harry Connick Jr., Jennifer Lopez and Keith Urban.
"One of the most exciting things will be to meet the judges," Aspen said.
Aspen, a 15-year-old sophomore-to-be at Quincy Notre Dame, will represent West-Central Illinois and Northeast Missouri as the winner of the annual WGEM Fox competition. Those who live within the WGEM viewing area were eligible to enter.
In Nashville, Aspen plans to sing the song that won her the Tri-States title -- "Folsom Prison Blues" by Johnny Cash, a song that was originally suggested for her last year by her dad.
"My dad is a huge Cash fan," she said.
So is Aspen -- now. But it was not always that way. Originally, she didn't care much for the country classic, but it began to wear on her in the months leading up to Friday's competition. Earlier this year, she finally decided to go with her dad's suggestion, long regarded as one of the best offerings from The Man in Black.
"It's kind of my signature song now," Aspen said.
Aspen was one of 29 people who competed in the Tri-States Idol competition. Ten of those advanced to the finals, performing in the Fountain Court area of the mall.
The other nine finalists were Samantha Proske and Matt Roberts of Quincy, Lydia Cox of Jacksonville, Joshua Keck of Macomb, Rebekah Embree of Perry, Mo., Camden Scifres of Maywood, Mo., and Nick Schnerre, Beth Lacey and Teddy Parker of Hannibal, Mo.