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Barely able to suppress a mile-wide grin, 16-year-old finalist Jessica Sanchez was greeted by thousands of fans as she made her return to Chula Vista, Calif., over the weekend. "I nearly kissed the ground when I landed in San Diego," she told PEOPLE.
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Nothing like some brotherly bonding! After giving her signature performance of Whitney Houston's "I Will Always Love You" at Eastlake High School, California darling Sanchez crashed on the couch and caught up with her younger siblings (and their adorable pup). "I'm glad I got to sleep in my own bed and hang out with my little brothers," she said. "It was really nice."
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Talk about an emotional comeback! Besides having the town's mayor name May 12 Jessica Sanchez Day, Sanchez also went aboard the USS Midway Museum, where she performed a touching rendition of Luther Vandross's alongside her dad, a member of the U.S. Navy who is being deployed to Singapore.
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Waves all around! Joshua Ledet greets the adoring crowd as he makes his way through his hometown of Westlake, La., where he encountered some dedicated devotees: "There was this one girl that had a sign that said, 'A touch from you would make my world,'" he told PEOPLE. "I literally touched her hand, and she just burst out into tears and started going crazy. I think that is what stuck with me throughout the whole day."
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MOST LIKELY TO SUCCEED
Walking through the hallways of his former high school, Ledet celebrated his arrival with a festive pep rally complete with his friends and family. The more-than-emotional crooner also couldn't help recall the reaction to his sudden claim to fame: "It was crazy for them and it was crazy for me just looking out in the crowd."
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What was the first thing the RampB-gospel singer looked forward to during his return to the Sugar State? "Eating crawfish," Ledet (surrounded by his family) revealed. "I was craving Louisiana food for so long … and once I got home that was the first thing I ate."
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Phillip Phillips kids around with some young fans during his Saturday arrival in Leesburg, Ga. "It was overwhelming seeing all the people supporting me and just having signs up," the 21-year-old guitarist told PEOPLE. "It was so insane."
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THE GOOD SON
The blues-inspired finalist admitted to lounging around before parading through the good ol' South with his mom and dad. "My parents actually put on some [clean-looking] covers, so I was like, 'Man, why'd they do that," he joked. "I pulled the covers back a bit and I lay down on my bed. It felt so good just to be there in my small little room."
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Charming the legions of fans at Lee County High School, Phillips looked forward to a carefree, no-nonsense performance. "I get tired of – it gets old – playing to click tracks," he said. "I'm more of a jam kind of guy, freestyling it, and it was so good to be back on the stage just jamming out."
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