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Yesterday, I set out with my 12 year old son, Lance, to watch the final American Idol Experience show at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. We were first-timers and now we are both a little disappointed that we won’t be watching this super fun, high-energy show again.

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The final finale was held in a packed theater, awarding the last Dream Ticket to 14 year old Jessica Jarvis who rocked it with “I Want You Back”, prompting one of the judges to describe her as “Rapunzel with street cred” while the Simonesque judge on the panel told her that he is glad she chose the last show of this attraction to perform because “with a voice like that - you’ll be closing shows for a long time” as the audience howled and cheered.  Kat Bombeck really set the tone with a soulful rendition of Aretha Franklin’s “Respect”, while Louise Esden gave a powerful performance with Brenda Russell’s “Get Here”.

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They were all fantastic and I struggled with how to cast my vote.  I am keeping my vote secret.  Ok, fine – I voted for Louise Esden.  Lance voted for Jessica Jarvis (who won).  I wish I could have voted for them all because the Mom in me wants everyone to win. Big hug girls, you are awesome.

Originally set to close January, 2015, Disney’s American Idol Experience closed early on August 30, 2014.  Disney has not elaborated as to why the popular attraction was being closed earlier than had been previously announced, however the Orlando Sentinel reported that Disney describes the closure as “part of the continuous review of the company's entertainment options.”  Regarding the closing, the Orlando Sentinel quoted a Disney’s spokesperson as having said:

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“After more than five successful years, The American Idol Experience will be coming to a close at Disney’s Hollywood Studios theme park in January 2015. Our partnership with FremantleMedia and 19 Entertainment has been a great addition to the park and we are very appreciative of the amazing cast and guests who have devoted their time and talent to make this experience special and memorable.

We are incredibly proud of the more than 2,000 Dream Tickets that have given guests a chance to live their very own Cinderella story and audition for ‘American Idol’. This past season alone, three of the Top 13 contestants were originally discovered through The American Idol Experience and we expect the attraction to continue providing top contestants for ‘American Idol’ XIV in the coming year.”

Disney has not yet announced what show or attraction might be replacing the American Idol Experience which has been housed in the “Superstar Television Theater” (formerly the “ABC TV Theater”).  Former occupants of the space include "Doug Live!" and "Superstar Television".  However, there are rumors and pure speculation that the spot may become home to a new “Frozen” themed attraction.  With the large stage, 1000 seats and awesome sound in this theater – I would love to hear Olaf belting out “In Summer” in this space!

For those unfamiliar with the attraction (as I was), the American Idol Experience opened in February of 2009 with a blue-carpet press event that boasted celebrities from the American Idol television show such as host Ryan Seacrest and former Idol champions Kelly Clarkson, Ruben Studdard, Fantasia Barrino, Carrie Underwood, Taylor Hicks, Jordin Sparks and David Cook.   For the past five years, American Idol Experience has held daily private auditions for theme park guests in an accelerated version of the television show American Idol.  Every morning, there are private auditions to select the competitors for each day’s shows. The winners of each show during the day returns for a grand finale held each evening. The final champion receives the coveted "Dream Ticket” which has served as an Idol FastPass, so to speak, allowing the winner to schedule a front-of-the-line audition at an actual regional audition for the American Idol TV show.

Turns out, those Dream Tickets were a BIG deal.  Quite a few Dream Ticket winners have gone on to be contestants on Fox’s American Idol.  One Dream Ticket winner, Erika Van Pelt has said: "The American Idol Experience changed everything for me. I had auditioned for the show several times before, but winning the Dream Ticket was the game-changer. AI Experience gave me a taste of the real thing, down to the smallest detail — live audience voting, charismatic hosts and a good Simon judge-a-like or two! The Dream Ticket gave me the opportunity to go to the front of the line at the auditions in Pittsburgh for season 11, which ultimately led to me securing a spot in the Top 10. I am so grateful for the opportunity."

So good luck to you, Jessica Jarvis!! And of course, thank you to the cast and crew of Disney’s American Idol Experience!