"American Idol" Season Four runner-up Bo Bice, left, will join Mack McKibben, right, and his band Drive Time at this year's July 4 celebration, Independence in the Park, on the Covington Square. Staff Photo: Sue Ann Kuhn-Smith
COVINGTON -- A little bit more of Hollywood is in Covington.
The town that is already known as the Hollywood of the South for being the backdrop for several movie and television productions, now also is home to "American Idol" season four runner-up Bo Bice, who traveled to Hollywood in 2005 to compete on the popular television singing competition.
To honor him and his contribution to Georgia music, musician Mack McKibben invited him to play in this year's July 4 celebration, Independence in the Park, on the Covington Square.
"He is good people," McKibben said about Bice, who was runner-up to Carrie Underwood on the show. "He's very talented and gifted; he's got a good, strong voice. I feel fortunate and blessed to know him."
McKibben said Bice began coming in his music store on the Square a little more than a year ago. He didn't recognize him right away since his hair is a little shorter than it was on "Idol," but he recognized his name when he saw it.
Bice said family members have lived in the community for about 10 years, and he and his family have lived in Newton County for a little more than a year, after growing up in various places around the Southeast.
"We're just like everybody else," he said. "I just want the community to know that we're not standoffish."
Still, he gets recognized when he's around town.
"People treat me normal around here," he said. "I'm grateful for people to remember who I am almost 10 years now since 'Idol.'"
He said that he likes that Covington is a little country town that happens to have a lot of cool stuff in it, like a lot of the filming lately.
Since "Idol," Bice has released four studio albums and two live ones; he also has a record label and produces music in the Southeast.
At the July 4 celebration, Bice will sing some covers, particularly of some Georgia bands, and some of his original music. He will be backed by McKibben's newly formed lineup, Drive Time.
Drive Time will begin performing at 8:30 p.m. for about 30 to 45 minutes, and then Bice will join them for about 30 minutes.
"They're tight. They're a great band," said Bice, who began practicing with Drive Time last week. "The music, it transcends all races and cultures and ages. They represent so many styles of music."
Drive Time also includes local singer April Allen, as well as McKibben's son Micah on vocals and congas, and nephew Pete Hall on trumpet, in addition to seven other members who are from the area playing guitars, drums and other instruments.
"It's fun," said 24-year-old Micah McKibben, who's been singing since he was a youngster. "I'm honored to be part of it because there are so many good musicians. I'm blessed to be around all of these guys that I can learn from."
Drive Time plays covers of songs from Shania Twain, the Zac Brown Band, Beyonce and Bruno Mars, among others.
"We play everything," Mack McKibben said.
Once Bice finishes his set with the national anthem, the fireworks will begin.
On Friday, July 5, Bice also will play as part of a free concert and fundraiser called GA2OK, which will raise money for tornado victims in Oklahoma with Boots on the Ground, a Moore, Okla.-based tornado relief effort.
He said that a few years ago a tornado hit his home county in Alabama, and living in the Southeast, he knows how tornadoes can devastate towns.
Three bands -- country artist Skylar Elise, bluegrass band Grassville and Bo Bice -- will play at Bear Creek Marina from 6 to 10 p.m.