Idol’s Sanchez Receives Hero’s Welcome

American Idol finalist Jessica Sanchez received a hero’s welcome when she returned to her hometown over the weekend…

The 16-year-old half-Mexican singer—the last female finalist standing in the singing competition—headed back to Chula Vista, California, as part of Idol’s hometown visits.

Jessica Sanchez

During her roll-out-the-red-carpet trip, Sanchez and her two younger brothers rode in a car past thousands of fans toward her destination: Eastlake High School’s stadium, where she performed her greatest Idol hits including Whitney Houston‘s “I Will Always Love You” on Saturday. She received a key to the city, with Chula Vista’s mayor declaring May 12 as “Jessica Sanchez Day.”

“I’m so happy to represent Chula Vista,” she said. “It was the people. I missed the people so much. I love you guys. Thank you for all the support.”

Later, at the USS Midway Museum, Sanchez performed Luther Vandross‘ “Dance With My Father” in an emotional tribute to her father, a U.S. Navy officer, whom she invited on stage. He’s scheduled to be deployed to Singapore.

Footage from Sanchez’s hometown visit will be shown during Wednesday’s performance episode.

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