Carrie Underwood honored by governor

Thursday, August 11th 2005, 6:55 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) Carrie Underwood, the sweet, emotional American Idol winner, was hailed Wednesday as Oklahoma's No. 1 ambassador by Gov. Brad Henry, who presented her with a replica of highway signs posted outside her hometown of Checotah.

Tears welled in Underwood's eyes after Henry called her ``a quintessential Oklahoman'' who was loved for being ``a genuine person'' as for her singing talent.

``It's so good to be home ... . I know I don't deserve any of this,'' said Underwood, who was in Oklahoma for a concert in Norman, along with many of her former competitors on Fox Network's American Idol television show.

Two 18-feet-by-7 feet signs and two 14-by-6-feet signs were posted along Interstate 40 and U.S. 69 outside Checotah, about 120 miles east of Oklahoma City. They read: ``Checotah, Home of Carrie Underwood, American Idol 2005.''

``These signs reflect the great pride that we Oklahomans have for Carrie,'' the governor said. ``Carrie is talented, graceful, charming, hardworking and a testament to what can happen when people follow their dreams.''

Underwood, 22, said the American Idol concert tour has been fun, but a little hectic at times.

For instance, her tour bus did not roll into Oklahoma until early Wednesday. ``The first thing I did this morning when we got in was take a shower. We'd been on the bus all night, so I really needed one.''

She said it was the first time she had been at the Capitol since she was a legislative page.

The best thing about her experience as the American Idol winner is that ``I just get to do what I love every single day,'' she said, calling herself ``the luckiest person in the world.''

Underwood, who wept unabashedly when she won the American Idol contest in May, said she brags on her state every where she goes. ``If we ever run into a problem anywhere, I say, 'this would not happen in Oklahoma.'''

A lover of chocolate, she said she has been ``doing good'' limiting her indulgence to ``just a little a day.''

She shrugged off a question about having a boyfriend. ``I don't think there's really that much time'' for dating, she said.

Despite her busy singing career, endorsements and various show business opportunities, Underwood said she hopes to finish the half semester she lacks to get her college degree. She said she also plans to do charity work for the American Humane Society.

As her news conference was wrapping up, 10-year-old Ashley Acker of South Lake, Texas, stepped to the podium, held out a camera and asked if Underwood would be in a photograph with her.

Underwood smiled and put her arms around the little girl as someone took a picture. She then signed autographs for several admirers before being whisked away by handlers.

Ashley, brought to the Capitol by her grandmother, Diane Raney of Checotah, said she was not afraid to approach the celebrity in front of the jammed packed Blue Room outside the governor's office.

``I was excited. I think she is very nice. She's got a really great voice. She's my hero and my idol. I want to be a singer just like Carrie,'' Ashley said.