JORDIN SPARKS
Glendale, Ariz.

Three signs that 17-year-old Jordin Sparks returned to Glendale, Ariz., a changed woman:

1. The world is her friend.
"You almost have to clear it with an agent to see her," laments Sparks's uncle Matt Wiedmann, 35, who showed up at Skye restaurant to grab a bite with Jordin. Also on hand: her dad, former NFL player Phillippi, 38, mom Jodi, 37, and brother, P.J., 15. Alas, "I don't think Jordin ever sat down and ate," says her cousin Donnie Wiedmann, 20. "Everyone wanted autographs, and she went from table to table to say hi."

2. Celebs want to meet her.
During a radio show appearance, Arizona Cardinals quarterback Matt Leinart, a fellow guest, confessed to Sparks, "I got chills when you sang." Her reaction? "I gave Matt Leinart goosebumps! Yes!"

3. She has mastered the art of the celebrity disguise.
On May 11, after hitting a pep rally at her old high school (" Hey guys, did you miss me?" said Sparks, who's been homeschooled since 2006), singing at Westgate City Center and riding with a motorcade of police officers, Sparks donned a hat and oversize tee to attend her kid brother's basketball game incognito. One thing hasn't changed, says her uncle: "She's a real family girl."

BLAKE LEWIS
Seattle

In a sea of 8,000 screaming Blake Lewis fans at Seattle's Westlake Center, one is crying. "There's nothing better than seeing your son succeed," says Dallas Lewis, 58, wiping tears from his eyes as Blake performs onstage. "This is wonderful. Every parent should live to see this." Blake's dad, a general contractor, and mom Dinah, 57, who is retired, saw much more of their only child's success during his trip home. Lewis, 25, sang the national anthem (beat-boxing free) at a Mariners game, appeared on local TV shows and hung out with his now dumbfounded friends. "A couple months ago we were sitting around, watching movies," says pal Cisco McCarthy, 26. "Now we can't walk down the street." Not when Main Street Hair Designs in nearby Bothell is touting a $15 Blake special, "short on the sides, faux hawk in the back," according to stylist Jen Oliver. What's more," in the TV studio I heard the weatherman say, 'It's going to be a sunny Blake Lewis Day!'" says C.J. Stout, 26, a friend and sometime bandmate. "I thought that was hilarious." For his female fans of all ages—Lewis leads the Idol final three in the "marry me" sign tally—it was a sunny day indeed. Emilie Weller, 9, skipped school to see Blake—with her mother's blessing. Says Mom, Cynthia, 41: "She's gotten straight A's all year. I figure it's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. And, I love him."

MELINDA DOOLITTLE
Nashville

There are some cravings Hollywood just can't satisfy. "I must have sweet tea. I've been asking for it nonstop," Doolittle, 29, told PEOPLE eight hours after arriving home. "In California, you have to sweeten your own, and it is totally different." But what's just as sweet as her favorite southern beverage? Returning to Belmont University. There, about 2,000 supporters turned out for the 1999 music-school grad (and former mascot, the Bruin, at basketball games) during her convertible ride through campus. Doolittle also made time for mom Marguerite, 56, a teacher, dad Steve, 57, a sales analyst, and stepmom Harriet, 57. However, a lunch at Swett's—meant to be for just her close friends and family—turned into a fan frenzy as screaming locals kept popping into the private room to take pictures. The backup singer turned Idol also met with Tennessee governor Phil Bredesen, who declared May 11 Melinda Doolittle Day. Plus, she visited the Grand Ole Opry and Born Again Church, which she regularly attended, and sang a spiritual. Says her friend Kelley Norris: "I cried, she cried, everybody cried. It renewed her spirit." Before jetting back to L.A., Doolittle grabbed another taste of home: a late-night meal at Cracker Barrel. The best part of her day? "The whole day has been a highlight," says Doolittle. "I'm going to lay down on my bed and cry it all out!"

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  • Contributors:
  • Reported by Rebecca I. Allen/Glendale,
  • Eileen Finan/Nashville,
  • Kerri Smith/Phoenix,
  • Marion Daniel/Seattle.