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JEFFERSON, Iowa–From small town Iowa to reality singing show winner to casino to more opportunities to music superstardom. That’s the dream career path that Gary and Sue Kirke, of West Des Moines, have for Maddie Poppe, the 20-year-old “American Idol” winner and Clarksville native.

Gary Kirke owns casinos in Iowa, including the Wild Rose in Clinton and Jefferson. His wife, Sue, was flipping through the television channels several months ago and stopped on “American Idol.” She was captivated by one of the contestants, Poppe. “It was her voice,” Sue Kirke said, “I loved her voice.”

She convinced her husband to watch the show, too. The Kirkes have followed Poppe’s rise from obscurity to national acclaim for her vocal skills. But they know the path to capitalize on Poppe’s success on the show is challenging. The music industry is extremely competitive and is full of talented performers looking to make it big. Gary Kirke is convinced that Poppe has what it takes, along with the “Iowa nice” that will help her win over fans. “When I listen to her voice, it’s so unique,” he said.

Poppe headlined a performance at Kirke’s casino in Clinton last Saturday and also Friday night in Jefferson. The Kirkes hope the exposure helps Poppe to gain the experience, build her following and continue to work her way to the top.

“She can only go up from here!” Gary Kirke said.

The Kirkes have met numerous music stars over the years. They say Reba McEntire and Kenny Rogers have been among the most generous with their time.