Judging from the hundreds of signs plastering businesses and downtown Beaufort and the seemingly unprecedented crowd that gathered along the streets Saturday afternoon in the hopes of catching a glimpse of her, a lot has changed since "American Idol" finalist Candice Glover was last in Beaufort County.
"I never imagined that it could be this big. I just want to say from the bottom of my heart, thank you. I'm not very good at talking, I'm better at singing," Glover said at a private reception held for her at Penn Center on Saturday.
One of the most telling changes can be seen on Glover's family refrigerator -- which once featured a single newspaper clipping and is now covered in articles, photos and signs supporting the "American Idol" contestant, whose increasing fame is becoming more and more apparent to all those around her.
After being greeted by a crowd of fans at the Savannah airport on Friday evening, Glover was finally reunited with her family about noon Saturday in an emotional gathering. The reality show singer made it to the Top 3 on "Idol" on Thursday and has returned home for a parade and concert Saturday evening.
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A deputy escort -- and Fox's cameras -- accompanied the "Idol" contestant down the dirt road to her home. Glover, in a stretch Cadillac Escalade, waved to the dozen or so family members who eagerly awaited her return in the rain.
When Glover reached her six siblings, whom she hasn't seen since February, she was in tears.
But it was soon clear that although Glover's life has changed drastically, her playful relationship with her siblings had not.
"You're not smiling," Glover yelled at her brother, Jon.
Glover's family was clad in purple T-shirts with her photo and the words "Candice Glover: Our American Idol" on them. The shirts were a gift from a distant relative.
Everyone took turns wrapping Glover in hugs, crying and laughing as they told her how much they missed her, preventing her from getting a peek at the meal family members had been preparing for her since early morning.
The cameras rolled as everyone crammed around their dining room table and sat down for a feast of her favorite foods, including fried chicken, her grandma's homemade macaroni and cheese and cupcakes frosted in white and purple, Glover's trademark color. When she saw that they were to use plastic utensils, Glover requested real silverware, saying she wanted to feel like she was really home.
While at the house, Glover's aunt, Bernadette Middleton, showed everyone the notebook she had been using to tally the more than 5,000 votes she has called in for Glover on "Idol." Meanwhile, Glover's performances played on the TV in the background.
When "Find Your Love" came on, her brother Jon broke into a dance, saying it was his favorite.
After the reunion, Glover, her family, her bodyguard and the "Idol" production crew headed to Penn Center for the private reception with friends. Along the short drive, St. Helena Island residents came out of their homes to clap, cheer and take pictures of the procession, which included deputy escorts.
As Glover entered the building where the reception was being held, the standing-room only crowd chanted "We love Candice." Rows of people stood outside and peered through the windows to get a peek of Glover. One woman barked at a police officer, telling him to move aside so she could see.
The welcoming cheer ended when the entire room broke out in song, singing "What a Mighty God We Serve." The floor vibrated as the crowd clapped and stomped along.
The event opened with a prayer, and then Glover addressed the crowd.
"When I'm out in L.A., y'all inspire me," she said.
The Beaufort High School gospel choir joined Glover on stage for a song, and then she called up her grandmother.
"My grandmother put up with all my mess and my attitude," she said, turning to Middleton. "And I just want to tell you, I love you so much."
She then presented her grandmother with two tickets to the "Idol" finale on May 15.
Glover sang Marvin Gaye's "Heard It Through the Grapevine" at the reception, which she performed during the "Idol" Top 8 show, before leaving for a scheduled press conference in downtown Beaufort.
"It is all that I expected and even more," Glover said Saturday afternoon of her hometown visit. "I can't believe that all these people are out here. Everything that's happening today, is happening for me. I've cried like four times already. I'm just so overwhelmed."
Glover is scheduled to fly back to Hollywood at 9 a.m. Sunday. Before Wednesday's show, she has to learn three songs and film a commercial for Ford with the other contestants.
Glover's grandmother, Albertha Middleton, summed up the reunion and fanfare on Saturday: "I've never seen anything like this before in my life."
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- Details of Saturday's parade and concert, including street closures, parade route
- 'American Idol's' Candice Glover comes home to Beaufort for celebratory weekend; May 3, 201
- Beaufort flies into frenzy to welcome hometown 'Idol' Glover; May 3, 2013