When Candice Glover watched previous seasons of "American Idol," she imagined what it would be like to experience the hometown parade and concert that the Top 3 contestants on the show receive.
"I had dreamed about this," she said when she arrived Friday evening at a private air terminal at the Savannah Hilton Head Island International Airport. Glover, who made it to the Top 3 in the reality singing show on Thursday night, returned to Beaufort County to have her very own parade and concert, which will be held Saturday in downtown Beaufort.
About 125 fans from Beaufort, Yemassee and Savannah were ready and waiting at the airport for the St. Helena Island native. They held colorful signs, shouted welcomes and took plenty of pictures on their cellphones. Glover was dressed in a black leather jacket, chunky gold chain, a purple blouse and her signature purple streak in her hair, a look familiar to her "Idol" fans.
The crowd swarmed her as she came down the steps of the jet. Glover stood in the rain, giving hugs and signing autographs before she made her way into the terminal. A little girl ran away from meeting the singer screaming, "Can you believe that's her?"
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This was Glover's third try at "American Idol." She had auditioned in 2009, 2011 and again last summer.
She hopes her story will be a lesson to the dozens of kids crowded around her: Never give up.
"If you get told no, it doesn't matter," Glover said. "Just because somebody tells you no, that doesn't mean you won't get a yes down the line. Keep on going. I'm living proof that dreams do come true."
Glover was accompanied Friday night by her hometown best friend Laquan Fields, who also auditioned for "Idol," and her cousins, Lindsey, Melony and Ashley Middleton, who surprised her at the airport.
"I can't believe this is happening," Glover said of the crowd, which chanted, "We'll be there tomorrow, rain or shine" for the cameras.
"I'm super excited to be here. I can't wait till tomorrow," said Glover, who added that she thinks she can win. "I believe in myself."
Paula Hagan and her mother Linda Hagy, both of Yemassee, drove to Savannah and waited with posters of Glover, which they decorated with glitter, streamers and blinking stars.
"It just gives some light to her face," Hagy said.
The women don't personally know Glover, but wanted to show their support.
"I'm just fascinated with her," Hagan said.
Jenna Ingalsbe, 15, of Plymouth, Mich., was among those waiting for Glover. On vacation on Hilton Head Island, the teen said she loves Glover and "American Idol"
"I wouldn't miss it," said Ingalsbe, who was there to assure Glover that she has what it takes to win.
"I'd love to meet her and say hi and tell her I think she's great and that I am rooting for her," she said. "I think she's doing great. ... I really do think she could win."
Her brother, Jesse, 7, wasn't as sure. He thinks contestant Angie Miller might take the "Idol" crown.
But in this crowd, he was in the minority.
Denitra Small, 45, has been watching "American Idol" for years. She has been paying more attention this season because of the local connection.
"I think she's No. 1 since she's from this area," she said. "But we're a little biased."
Heather Doray, 37, of Beaufort, teaches science at Beaufort High School. She's been paying attention to the show this season to watch Candice Glover, whose siblings are her students.
"The kids are all pumped up," Doray said. "We play the videos and get everyone pumped up and try to get everyone to vote. It's part of the community spirit."
A parade in Glover's honor will start at 5 p.m. Saturday in Beaufort, followed by a concert at 7 p.m. She almost gave away the songs she'll sing, but stopped herself short.
"I wouldn't want to ruin the surprise," she said.
Glover said her favorite performances on the show so far were her renditions of The Cure's "Lovesong" and Tom Jones' "I Who Have Nothing," both of which garnered national media attention and received high marks from the "Idol" judges.
Youthful Praiz, a local nondenominational youth choir, will join Glover on stage tomorrow night. They will sing gospel numbers, "There Is No Way" and "Set Me Free."
Glover joined the group, under the direction of Luella Jackson, in 2008. Jackson said that while Glover had the voice, there was a time she lacked confidence, never realizing how talented she was.
"I used to always tell her, 'Baby, you make the hairs on the back of people's neck stand up,'" Jackson said.
She's now receiving that same praise from the "Idol" judges.
"Let me say on behalf of my judges up here, that was one of the greatest performances in the history, in the 12 years, of American Idol," judge Randy Jackson said after her performance of "Lovesong."
"This is what you were born to do," judge Nicki Minaj said after one of Glover's performances. "You didn't have to learn to do this. You were born to do this."
Reporter Casey Conley contributed to this report.