They came from all up and down the Eastern Seaboard, driving bleary miles in the pre-dawn black for a chance at glory. Numbered in the thousands, they were the latest batch of potential American Idol contestants, huddled in an ever-lengthening line Wednesday morning at the North Charleston Coliseum.

Fox officials started letting people stake out their places well before sunrise, and by 6 a.m., the fenced-in line of hopefuls stretched a quarter-mile into the parking lot, where Coliseum employees charged $5 a car to park. Wednesday morning was the start of a 48-hour period in which entrants could register and pick up a wristband, which will get them into the Coliseum again to wait for their names to be called for auditions beginning Friday morning.

W.T. Thompson, who stood near the front of the line cracking jokes with people who had been strangers until hours before, had quit his job as a prison guard in Appomattox, Va., to come down for an audition. He called it part of a “quarter-life crisis.” When his chance comes, he will sing the song “Drifter” by Christian rock band DecembeRadio. “I’m trying to represent God. That’s all I’m trying to do,” Thompson said.

Marvin Zapf of Sumter showed up for his third Idol audition. He traveled to Jacksonville, Fla., to audition in 2008 and to Los Angeles in 2009, and he said he felt lucky to have an audition in his own state. “I’ve got it. I’ve got talent,” Zapf said. “You can have a million nos, but all it takes is one yes.”

Zapf grew up in Sumter, where he participated in school choruses. “Everybody knows Marvin in Sumter,” he said. He will audition with either “Heard it Through the Grapevine” or the Jackson 5 rendition of “Who’s Lovin’ You.”

Katelyn Patterson stood about 50 yards back from the front of the line with her aunt, Vickie Moseley. They had driven eight hours from central Alabama and arrived to get in line around 2:30 a.m. Her audition song will be “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” as sung by Marvin Gaye. “I’m kind of nervous, but I’m just ready,” Patterson said. She laughed a little, paused, and then cocked her hips as she stood akimbo, adding, “And I wanna be the next American Idol.”

Moseley said she wasn’t auditioning; she just came out to support her niece. “It’s her American dream,” she said.