Students, alumni and faculty gathered at the Rhody Market on Tuesday night to cheer for URI alumnus Mat Franco in the finals of “America’s Got Talent”, the day before his win was announced.

Franco, a magician who graduated from URI in 2010 with a degree in marketing, reached the finals after weeks of performances that were well received by the audience and the program’s judges.

”You look at the judges, they’re having as much fun as he is,” assistant director of communications Dave Lavallee said. “I don’t recall one judge saying a bad thing. They didn’t have any criticism of his performances throughout the whole show. I don’t know if you could say that about every act, but he’s certainly has gotten high marks all the way along.”

Franco was one of six final performers on Tuesday’s program. The others included acrobatic troupe AcroArmy and young R&B singer Quintavious Johnson.

Rhody Market erupted in cheers as Franco walked on stage for his first performance. The act, based on one he performed at his audition, was a cup-and-ball trick based around a humorous poem.

“I thought it was really great,” freshman pharmacy major Jessica Tolchinsky said. Compared to his other performances, she said, “I thought this one was way better because he was rhyming and it was entertaining. It was a show and a magic trick.”

Between the performances, a group photo of Franco supporters was taken by social media coordinator Shelbey Bidell for URI’s Facebook and Twitter profiles. The photo was retweeted by Franco himself between performances to his 18,000 Twitter followers. In the photograph, Tolchinsky held a cardboard cutout of Franco’s face.

Franco’s second performance featured an elaborate trick with involving a two decks of cards: a regular deck and a “human deck” of audience members holding large playing cards. Franco asked judges Howard Stern and Melanie Brown to sort the decks into cards they believed were of either red or black suits. When the cards in both decks were revealed by Franco, all the judges’ calls were correct, save one black card – a three of clubs – that both judges put into the red pile.

“I thought that second act was spectacular because it was a big act. It was the kind of act that you could really perform in Vegas,” Lavallee said. “He showed he could that he could carry that as much as he can the smaller card tricks”

The large turnout for the party pleased Franco’s longtime supporters. “I think it was really great, way bigger than last time,” Tolchinsky said. “I’m so glad all these people are coming to support him.”

Lavallee was optimistic about Franco’s future after the show. “I think he’s going to do very well. Whether it’s performing in Vegas or going on tour, he’s going to be in demand.”

He added, “He’s likeable. He has a sense of humor, too. A lot of these magicians today take themselves very seriously. He doesn’t. He’s having fun with it. That’s kind of his secret. It’s not about the magic, it’s about the fun.”

The Tuesday performance was followed by the Wednesday results show, in which Franco won the competition, $1 million and a headlining show Las Vegas.