American Idol stops by L.I.

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Twenty-year-old Gabriella Messina, from Washington, N.J., came with supporters Curie Runk and Amanda Chappell, while their newfound pals Paige Bettencourt, 25, and Bayport resident Diana Schmidt, 25, brought friend Lindsay Schlicker for support. “[Auditions] are always awkward at first,” said Messina. “But once you start singing, it doesn’t even matter.”

Having support throughout the competition pays off — literally — according to Robert McLeod, Idol’s supervising producer for the past four seasons. McLeod said that this year’s season will implement a new component to the show called “True Believer,” which awards $50,000 to the biggest supporter of the winner of American Idol.

For many, the chance to audition is something they’ve dreamed about for years. Amber Rolon, 20, from Seaford, said she has been waiting to try out since Idol first aired in 2002.

I even spotted a few familiar faces in the crowd — an old classmate, Nicki Mattsson, 23, a member of an a capella group at SUNY New Paltz, my alma mater. She came with friend Lindsay Breslauer, of Woodmere. Both were there to audition.

I asked Mattsson, from Miller Place, how she was feeling about her upcoming audition. “Confident, excited and full of Red Bull,” she said.

Breslauer, 24, said she decided to try out when the audition cities were announced in May. “They’ve never done it at Nassau Coliseum, so I had to come,” she said.

Before potential Idols were allowed inside the Coliseum, cameras were raised above the sea of singers, who were asked to show their enthusiasm as the crew shot a few takes of the crowd screaming “Welcome to New York!”

“Welcome home, Jennifer!” yelled a girl dressed in similar fashion to the Bronx native superstar.

A member of the production staff, who seemed pleased with the crowd’s energy level, shouted “You guys are great, that’s why we come to New York!” through a megaphone.

When the Coliseum doors opened to allow the hopefuls inside, a large portion of the crowd started singing “I’m Yours,” by Jason Mraz. Unified and harmonious, one would never think the singers were about to partake in the highly competitive world of reality television.

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