Sanjaya Malakar honored for his unlikely 'American Idol 6' journey
By Christopher Rocchio, 05/10/2007
If you can't go home, where can you go?
"Hello everybody. I'm so happy to be home," former American Idol 6 finalist Sanjaya Malakar said on Wednesday to a crowd of 600 people assembled on The Common in his hometown of Federal Way, WA, The [Tacoma, WA] News Tribunereported Thursday.
The homecoming ceremony could certainly be described as unexpected. Federal Way Town Manager Neal Beets had previously said the city had "more important things to deal with" than honoring the 17-year-old former Idol 6 finalist, who saw his journey on the Fox reality competition series come to an end prior to the Top 6 being revealed.
While Federal Way Mayor Mike Park had also previously commented that the city had never honored anyone with their own "special day" in its 17-year history, Federal Way ended up stopping short of doing just that. Instead, Park presented Malakar with a certificate of appreciation from the city and the "Sanjaya Malakar Day" declaration was left to South King County -- saving the city of Federal Way the apparent embarrassment of having to break its 17-year streak by honoring a reality TV contestant.
"Sanjaya has shown us all by his example how to remain positive and believe in ourselves," the Federal Way certificate that was signed by Park stated. "Sanjaya's charismatic personality, contagious smile, positive attitude and enthusiastic pursuit of his dreams are qualities to be admired."
"We're recognizing that he's using his celebrity status not only to benefit himself but also the community," King County Councilman Pete von Reichbauer -- the county official who actually declared Wednesday to be "South King County Sanjaya Malakar Day" -- told The News Tribune. "He's going to have his 15 seconds of fame."
Malakar's connection to Federal Way had previously been openly questioned by Park, as the former Idol finalist attended the city's Todd Beamer High School in 2005-2006, but didn't graduate and instead opted to obtain his GED. Malakar's family also has a less-than-stellar history with local authorities -- in February 2005, Malakar's mom Jillian Blith his stepfather Charles Quist, and his then 17-year-old sister Shyamali were busted for growing 310 marijuana plants in the family's Federal Way garage. However during the Wednesday ceremony, Malakar reportedly gave a "TBHS Titans" shout-out and even briefly donned the school's blue and green colors.
In addition, Malakar personally signed 200 autographs with "at least two body guards and even more Federal Way police officers hovering nearby," according to The News Tribune. Pre-signed autographs were also reportedly available for a $1 donation or more to World Vision, an international Christian humanitarian organization based in Federal Way. While he didn't sing at the ceremony, Malakar had previously performed at a fund-raising benefit for Federal Way's Americorps volunteers.
With young fans and municipal leaders honoring him, Malakar says he received a homecoming he said he won't soon forget.
"It's kind of surreal. It's kind of all hitting me at once," he told The News Tribune. "It's fun, but it's awkward to deal with in such a small amount of time. You don't really have time to let it sink in."
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