Idol winner Phillip Phillips stars at surprise Ogden concert

Sunday , August 03, 2014 - 8:48 AM

Standard-Examiner staff

OGDEN — The occasional leak was supposed to be inevitable. It’s not easy to put on a parade with 1,000 participants in the dark, nor to host a concert with a mystery celebrity, without a few people catching wind.

But Downtown Ogden Inc. and Pepsi Co. kept interested onlookers, numbered in the thousands by the end of the night, guessing about Saturday’s surprise event mystery performer right up until 2012 “American Idol”-winner Phillip Phillips made his appearance on the V.I.P. float.

Phillips, star of the “impromptu parade” held earlier Saturday, also a led a 7:30 p.m. concert, drawing a large crowd at Historic 25th Street and Grant Avenue.

Downtown Ogden, a business that partners with the city, announced along with Pepsi on social media Friday that a mystery performer would accompany the weekend’s festivities. Residents speculated about several artists, including country star Blake Shelton, who works with Pepsi at times on various promotions.

“I have heard of Rolling Stones or Pink,” said Ogden resident earlier Saturday. “Pepsi’s got the money, so I wouldn’t put it past them. I got three daughters, and they all like Pink, so I wouldn’t mind that.”

But Phillips, a folk rock artist, was kept a relative secret, much like he was before his ascent to “American Idol” stardom. In the two years since, he has released two albums and sold more than a million copies combined.

Most residents who spoke with the Standard-Examiner were impressed with the star-power selection of Phillips, though some admitted they knew little about him.

“I just want to see some good music. I’m a music fan. I’m here to be young again,” quipped Ogden resident Richard Ramos, who said he’s never seen the city host an event like Saturday’s. “I’ve lived here since 1995 and haven’t seen anything like this. I’m enjoying this atmosphere. I love it.”

Another one of Saturday’s main stars was herself kept in the dark until she was told late this week she would be honored by the celebration.

Karen Waters, owner of Karen’s Out West Cafe on Historic 25th Street, was told Friday she would be singled out by Pepsi, who put on the event to thank local clients.

“She was badgering all the employees, asking what’s this about, what’s with all the secrets,” joked Waters’ brother, D.J. Homer. “It was a surprise to her.”

Waters stood out to Pepsi in part because of her high involvement in the community. Her diner has been operating downtown for 19 years.

“She supports every organization that comes along for help. If I named names, I’d get it wrong or forget somebody,” Homer said. “They had a whole camera crew here all yesterday and today. Nationwide, they choose just five people (to highlight). It’s good to be part of something so unique.”

Pepsi singled out Karen’s Out West Cafe in part because of her integrity working with the company, said Kelcie Hall, whose husband works locally for Pepsi.

“Her husband gave them a verbal agreement (since starting the restaurant) to always serve Pepsi products,” said Hall, who attended Saturday’s festivities with her family. “They’ve always kept that (promise), so that’s why they’re being thanked.”

Waters was presented Friday with a jukebox exclusively featuring two of her favorite artists, Jonny Cash and Elvis Presley. A large banner hung over one of Saturday’s floats with the words, “We love Karen.”

The owner herself, though, was busy Saturday helping her employees handle the surge of customers drifting over from the parade and concert, not to mention an LDS temple open house just a few blocks away.

“When the parade got over, we just got flooded,” Homer said. “The cooks are hopping back there. But that’s good, business is good. ... Everybody is helping today.”

Several other businesses were also featured in the parade for their status as longtime clients.

“The whole point is to say, ‘You’re local, and we’re also local,’” Homer said.

Emilee Hall, 10, Kelcie Hall’s daughter, was one of roughly 1,000 volunteers in Saturday’s parade. She wasn’t nervous, she said, despite having only a few days’ notice she was going to march.

“We yelled and walked and got to hold signs saying Pepsi loves Iggy’s,” Emilee said, adding her favorite part was getting to stand right next to Phillips.

Kelcie Hall said even local employees had only had a short window to prepare the parade.

“I know in Ogden it’s been in the works for three weeks,” she said, but they made it a success. “It’s been amazing.”

The parade lasted only about 30 minutes but included some of the familiar trappings, including plenty of giveaways.

“People were handing out drinks, (mini) coolers with Pepsi in them,” said Ogden resident Mike Whitten, “a lot of cool stuff.”

Contact reporter Ben Lockhart at 801-625-4221 or Follow him on Twitter at @SE_Lockhart. Like him on Facebook at

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