In impossibly high heels, black jeans and a white-studded jacket familiar to her "American Idol" fans, Candice Glover shone Saturday evening before a sea of fans, who packed the streets for a parade and concert in downtown Beaufort despite gray skies and intermittent rain.
It was a long and emotional day for Glover -- filled with appearances , autographs, family reunions and filming -- but the Top 3 "Idol" finalist didn't hold back showing her hometown exactly why she's made it this far, performing for about 45 minutes. Glover sang five songs, including "Idol" familiars "Girl on Fire" and "Lovesong."
"I have to save my voice as much as possible," she said before singing "Come Together," which she allowed the crowd to choose.
Fans held signs and chanted "Candice," and while they seemed to enjoy themselves, the "Idol" production starts, stops and instructions reminded them that they were, in fact, there to film segments for this week's show.
During the concert, Beaufort Mayor Billy Keyserling gave Glover a giant key to the city -- something he has not done before. Designing the key called for some improvisation, he said, requiring him to consult with local businesses and members of the arts community. Keyserling told Glover: "We're going to open a recording studio here. That way you can enjoy some macaroni and fried chicken any time you want."
Earlier in the day, Gov. Nikki Haley declared that Saturday would be Candice Glover Day in all of South Carolina. Haley rode in the parade and later presented Glover with the proclamation on stage during the concert.
Near the end of the concert, Glover took her heels off, exclaiming, "This is how we do it in the country." Her cousin, Josh Middleton, ran up a pair of black flats for her once the concert was done.
While some things remained the same for Glover during her hometown visit, her life has changed considerably since she left for Hollywood in February.
After arriving in Savannah on Friday evening to a large gathering of fans, she started her day bright and early Saturday with a radio interview at Habersham Marketplace , where she received a pecan pie, prompting her to tweet about her appreciation of the South.
Glover's family, who had not yet seen the singing star, were also up early Saturday, preparing her favorite foods and getting ready for the camera crews from "Idol." As Glover neared the home at about noon, her "Idol" performances were playing on the TV, and her brother Jonathan, 18, danced to his favorite, Drake's "Find Your Love."
The excitement mounted as the family gathered on the front lawn in the rain and heard the sirens of Glover's deputy escort, signaling her approach on the dirt road leading up to her house.
Glover, in a stretch Cadillac Escalade limousine, was already in tears when she got out of the car and embraced her six siblings, whom she hadn't seen in months. They stood together in a group hug.
"I've missed you so much," she said to Jonathan, playfully smacking him on the chest and laughing.
Later, in an interview with the camera crew, Jonathan shrugged and said, "I missed her a lot. I don't know what else to say." He stayed no more than a few feet away from his sister while she posed for photos and greeted other family members, many of whom were wearing purple T-shirts with Glover's photo on the front.
Glover entered her home and when she saw the spread before her, exclaimed, "Oh my gosh!" Her family, surrounded by the television crew, gathered around the dinner table, which was decorated with colorful paper and filled with fried chicken, her grandma's macaroni and cheese and her mother's tuna salad, along with a cake that said "In it to win it!" Glover eschewed the plasticware set at the table for her and requested real silverware, saying she wanted to feel like she was really home.
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." And Glover's mother, Carole, offered some entertainment.
"Would any of you like to have me sing? I can sing you a little tune." From the table, she began to belt out "I Who Have Nothing," which her daughter sang to great acclaim on the Top 10 episode of "Idol." Glover laughed as her mother exaggerated the runs and forgot the words.
"Now, that's a joke," Carole clarified afterward, saying Glover did not get her singing talent from her.
Despite the short visit, Glover was grateful.
"Time with my family was amazing. I laughed until I cried," she said later. "I haven't laughed that hard in like four months. I was happy to get back with them."
By the time they had to move on to Penn Center, where a private reception was being held in Glover's honor, the "Idol" finalist seemed tired, but the show's producer reminded her she had a concert to put on later. According to Glover's father, his daughter stayed up until 5 a.m. catching up with friends.
"And on a day like today," John said, with a laugh.
Despite her exhaustion, she was still in good spirits.
"I didn't know it was going to be all TV crews and everything," Glover said about her homecoming. "But it's good to be home."
After the reunion, Glover, her family, her bodyguard and the "Idol" production crew headed to Penn Center. 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. One man showed his support from atop his lawn mower.
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, bellowing "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, Albertha Middleton.
"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, who stayed at a hotel in Beaufort on Saturday night, is scheduled to fly back to Hollywood at 9 a.m. Sunday. Her hectic schedule is far from over. Before Wednesday's show, she has to learn three songs and film a commercial for Ford with the other contestants.
Glover's grandmother summed up the reunion and fanfare on Saturday this way: "I've never seen anything like this before in my life."
Follow reporter Laura Oberle on Twitter at twitter.com/IPBG_Laura.