By the time 2 o'clock rolled around, the secret was out.
All across the Indian Prairie School District students were "mysteriously" checking out of class early for doctor's appointments or sneaking off to the restroom with cell phones begging mom for an early out.
After all, it's not every day a Disney pop sensation performs a free concert in Aurora.
Ashley Tisdale, of "High School Musical" (1, 2 and 3) fame, brought her brigade to Steck Elementary School on Aurora's far East Side Friday. Tisdale played a free promotional show to hundreds upon hundreds of screaming students and scores of others who stood just outside the black fence barricade — each fan vying for a better view.
Granger Middle School students Amanda McDonough and Anapaula Mejia, both 14, showed up at 12:30 p.m. for a front row spot against the barricade. They squealed with excitement as they secured their spots.
"Of course we're fans. We've got her music in my iPod," McDonough said of the now-brunette bomb-shell, who comes out with a new album later this summer.
"But my brother, he's lucky, he gets to be in there," McDonough said, eyeing the giant white tent that took over Steck's grassy fields.
"He couldn't even sleep last night," McDonough's mom, Janine, said of 12-year-old son Ryan. "It's been a pretty big deal."
For weeks the Steck students knew someone was coming to their school to perform. They were sent home with permission slips for parents, releasing their rights to be photographed, and chatter ran rampant throughout not only Steck's halls, but the halls of schools across the district.
Tim Fernandez and Tommy Wozniak, both 16 and students at Waubonsie Valley High School, took the day off early to catch a glimpse of a pop star so close to home.
"We liked 'High School Musical,'" Fernandez said. "And I live right across the field here, so it's weird that she's here."
Fernandez couldn't miss the giant tent, speakers, stage, lights and trailers that were set up Thursday afternoon — not to mention the giant "Ashley Tisdale" banners. He planned on telling only a few people about the show. But hundreds of others had the same idea, and by 1:30 p.m. they were pushed up against the black barricade, jealously eyeing the screaming elementary students inside.
Cell phone cameras held high above their head, students danced wildly, chanting "Ashley, Ashley, Ashley!" toward the stage. Time seemed to stand still as 2 p.m. inched near... and then it happened.
First came the drummer and guitars. The chants grew louder. Then the backup singer took her spot next to the mic.
"Ashley, Ashley, Ashley," tiny voices screeched.
And then there she was — a pop icon, on their playground, performing on the soccer fields they played on just hours before.
"They've been excited for weeks," Janine McDonough said of her son and the other Steck students. "I don't know how they kept them occupied in school today."