By Sally Voth -- firstname.lastname@example.org
WINCHESTER -- His role as Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival firefighters' marshal provided "American Idol" runner-up Bo Bice a chance to meet an idol or two of his own.
The 2005 "American Idol" contestant described himself as a "huge fan" of both Grand Marshal Erik Estrada and Sports Marshal Ward Burton, a NASCAR driver.
"I get starstruck all the time," Bice said during a break between appearances Friday afternoon. "I don't consider myself a celebrity. I'm just a guy that lucked out on a TV show. The Lord's blessed me with a career I've been working at, I guess, 19 years."
He was impressed by Estrada, who he grew up watching on "CHiPs."
"I was telling him earlier, I've met a lot of my heroes," Bice said. "It's really cool. I think Erik is the epitome of what every hero should be when you meet him. He is sweet, kind, charismatic, but most of all he's a humble, gentle spirit. The fact that he was more awesome than the guy I saw on TV, that's really the most awesome part."
The opportunities that opened up because of "American Idol" are also awesome, but not as great as his family.
"The show was the biggest change for my career," Bice said. "As far as my life, I've had two beautiful sons since Idol. Just being a dad and a husband really consumes most of my time.
"I don't care about the celebrity. Obviously, people want to talk more and follow my career. As far as being a rock star, that's not what wakes me up in the morning. The kids wake me up and they keep my attention during the day."
Now living in Nashville, Bice has started the record label Sugarmoney, has his own recording studio, and is releasing a live CD called "I Love the Road" and DVD this fall, as well as a five-song extended-play album of studio material.
His favorite "American Idol" moment was performing with Lynyrd Skynyrd. That led to friendships with band members and opportunities to meet people like Willie Nelson and Estrada. Bice also keeps connected with Idol contestants.
"I see a lot of the different people, not only from my season, but other seasons," he said. "I text [the most recent Idol] David Cook a lot. I haven't had that much time to watch it [this season], so my wife is keeping me up-to-date with it. I've been touring and busy making an album, so television is not a luxury I've been able to enjoy in the last year."
Bice attributes the popularity of "American Idol" to being able to watch and help someone make it big.
"I guess it's just the fact that it's not only interactive for the viewer, but you see somebody go from a nobody to a star overnight," he said. "I think that's been going on since 'Star Search.'"
Bice had a hard time coming up with his best experience post-Idol.
"I think each day is a new blessing for me," he said.
Being the firefighters' marshal is an ideal fit for Bice. A supporter of servicemen and women, Bice said many of them enter the fire, EMS and law-enforcement fields after being discharged.
"[I'm a] very, very outspoken advocate of our men and women in the military," he said. "We've been to Afghanistan and Iraq."
Involved with the Wounded Warrior Project, Bice has visited with soldiers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.
"Those are things I try to do as much as possible," he said. "We try to do them as under the radar as possible."
In Winchester since Thursday morning, Bice found the city to be beautiful. He was struck by how many of the festival workers were volunteering their time.
"I think that's a testament to this town," Bice said. "The people love it. They love their city and they love to be a part of something, and I think that really shows."