Bo back in Helena

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Helena welcomed its hometown hero to kick off the Buck Creek Festival with &8220;Bo Bice Day&8221; last Friday.

The American Idol star, who was runner-up following last year&8217;s competition, signed autographs at Amphitheater Park.

For fans such as 9-year-old Haley Pollard, who came four hours from Loxley, Ala., to see Bice, it was the thrill of a lifetime.

&8220;He touched my shoulder and I told him I&8217;ll never wash this shirt again,&8221; she said.

After the autograph session, Bice took the stage to receive the key to the city from Mayor Charles &8220;Sonny&8221; Penhale.

It was the city&8217;s way of showing how much Bice means to the people of Helena, the mayor said.

The return was special for Bice as well.

&8220;I&8217;m excited to be back in Helena. We called it home for many years,&8221; he said. &8220;I still love to come back here.&8221;

It has been a tough year physically for Bice.

On July 31, 2005, he broke his foot during an American Idols Live concert in Manchester, N.H.

He was able to tough out the injury and completed his set.

Three weeks later, he was rushed to a Las Vegas, Nev., hospital with an intestinal blockage, which required emergency surgery.

A stop at home may be just what the doctor ordered.

&8220;We haven&8217;t really taken any off time. We&8217;re recording, recuperating and out on the road &8212; the three R&8217;s.&8221; Bice said.

There have been positive events as well.

In June, he married his longtime girlfriend, Caroline. The couple had a son, Aiden in September and moved from Helena to Tennessee soon afterward.

Bice notes the parallels in his personal and professional life.

&8220;Everyday is a new experience with (his son) and in my career. I work as hard to be a good dad and a good husband as I do in my career,&8221; he said.

According to Bice, at this point the dream and the reality are not too far apart.