There are plenty of celebrities most kids would give up a day of school to see, but pop star Rihanna proved her popularity Friday when students in Barrington gave their entire first day of spring break to see her.
Even after a one-hour delay to her appearance at Barrington High School was announced Thursday night, more than 2,000 high school and middle school students waited another 3½ hours for the singer to arrive.
Nevertheless, when she did appear, screams and cheers showed the crowd's adulation was entirely undimmed.
Rihanna's appearance was announced nearly three months ago when the students of BHS-TV won the grand prize in the "Shine Bright Like A Diamond" contest. The video they produced highlighted many charitable organizations and activities the school's students are committed to.
"I wanted to come here to the high school because I was so impressed," Rihanna said. "I was very touched seeing the video. ... Barrington High School, congratulations!"
As welcome as her words were, students were bowled over even more by her charming demeanor and the hugs received by members of several groups highlighted by the video.
One of the students was Ashika Sachdev, a member of BHS-TV who actually sang Rihanna's song "Diamonds" in the video with changed lyrics inviting the music star to "drop by."
"I'm just shaking right now," Sachdev said. "I can't believe that just happened! I hugged Rihanna!"
Though her group and her school found out in December that their video had beat 52 other submissions from across the country, Sachdev said everyone's excitement continued to build over the months until Rihanna arrived.
And the unexpected wait of a few more hours Friday had little impact on that, she said.
"I think when we were waiting, everyone was a little bummed," Sachdev said. "But when she showed up, everyone got so excited! It didn't make any difference that she was a little late."
J.T. Snyder, a freshman at the high school, was also touched by the fact that he got to hug Rihanna and that the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life, with which he volunteers, received her support.
"It was a fun time, a great experience," Snyder said of Friday's event.
The other groups that got to meet Rihanna onstage were Best Buddies, which provides friendship and support for students with intellectual development disabilities, and the Brother's Keeper club, which gives assistance to Native American communities far from Barrington.
Peter Chung, another member of BHS-TV, was in charge of running the live streaming video from the event -- which went on hours longer than expected.
"I definitely got a little nervous that she wasn't going to show up," he said afterward. "But we're really good at impromptu because we have to do impromptu a lot."
Chung said meeting Rihanna onstage exceeded even the high expectations he'd had the past few months.
"It was fun, and she was so nice!" he said.
In addition to raffling off concert tickets and limited-edition bracelets, Rihanna signed three elegant, diamond-capped trophies the school had had a jeweler in town make to commemorate its first-place finish in the video contest.
One of the trophies will always sit in Barrington High School's trophy case while the other two will be donated to charities for fundraising.