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Miley's surprise visit thrills Utah fans

The excitement was intense.

Young girls were standing on their seats, waving their arms and screaming in disbelief. Moms were snapping pictures with their camera phones.

"I love you, Hannah Montana," one girl yelled as the star of the movie she was about to watch suddenly walked into the room.

Yes, that's right. Miley Cyrus (aka, Hannah Montana of the hit Disney show) was in Utah Friday for a surprise visit to fans at a 3:30 p.m. showing of her new film, "Hannah Montana: The Movie," at The District in South Jordan.

Her visit was part of a program by Walt Disney Pictures called "Opening Weekend Surprise," where different stars and movie talent visit unsuspecting theater audiences during the opening weekend of a show.

Utah was picked for a surprise visit, because, as Cyrus put it, "it's a place no one would suspect."

Audience members here were thrilled.

Just about two previews into the start of the show, the film suddenly stopped. The audience became quiet, and then a local radio announcer told them they would be receiving a "magical Disney experience."

Then, both Miley Cyrus and her father, country musician Billy Ray Cyrus, walked into the theater.

"Are you guys excited for the movie?" said Miley Cyrus, as fans screamed and took pictures. "We had such a good time making it."

Her father, who also plays her dad on the Hannah Montana show, thanked the audience for supporting their film. And then the pair took a picture with audience members.

Tiffany Vandersteen of Taylorsville said she and her 4-year-old daughter, Kaydance, were both surprised and excited. Her daughter loves the Hannah Montana show, Vandersteen said.

"It was amazing," said Vandersteen. "What could be a better surprise?"

During a brief interview after the surprise visit, both Cyrus and her father talked candidly about their relationship, working in show business and also their travel schedule.

On Thursday night, they were both in Nashville for the premier of "Hannah Montana: The Movie." They were in Los Angeles earlier, and also Las Vegas.

"It's been one of the craziest weeks of my life, but it's also worth it," said Miley Cyrus, who at age 16 appeared poised and confident when answering questions. "I have a good makeup artist to touch me up."

She said she hopes people look up to her as a role model, but also admitted that she, like her fans, is growing up and has made mistakes.

Her advice to young girls who want to be like her is to not give up and keep dreaming.

"Don't let anyone tell you, 'You can't,' " Cyrus said. "I think I'm a good testimony to that. Honestly, I was told 'no' so many times."

To learn more about the Hannah Montana movie and to see exclusive Disney-only coverage of the surprise visit to Utah, log on this Monday to www.disney.com/surprise.

E-MAIL: nwarburton@desnews.com