05/13/2012 at 04:00 PM EDT
Jessica Sanchez was greeted with open arms when she returned to Chula Vista, Calif., for American Idol
's hometown heroes week.
Cheered by thousands of fans, the finalist waved as she rode through town in a car with her two little brothers into Eastlake High School's stadium on Saturday.
"I feel amazing," Sanchez, 16, said as she made her way to the stadium's stage. "I'm so happy to represent Chula Vista. It was the people. I missed the people so much. I love you guys. Thank you for all the support."
With the town's mayor declaring May 12 as "Jessica Sanchez Day," the singer sang four songs, including Whitney Houston's "I Will Always Love You."
But it was one of her following performances at the USS Midway Museum that turned emotional. Sanchez invited her dad on stage to sang a rendition of Luther Vandross's "Dance with My Father." Her dad, a member of the U.S. Navy, is being deployed to Singapore.
Meanwhile, in other parts of the country, fellow finalists
Joshua Ledet and Phillip Phillips also headed home to film segments that will be featured on Wednesday's episode of Idol
In Westlake, La., just outside of Lake Charles, Ledet was greeted with signs that covered every business. Honored with a parade and a pep rally at Burton Coliseum nearby, the contestant was swarmed by fans kissing his hand and reaching to touch him.
In South Georgia, guitar-strumming singer Phillips performed for thousands of his local fans at Lee County High School.
"I don't even know what to say but thank you," Phillips said during the appearance. "I appreciate all of the support."
Given a key to the city, Phillips, like Sanchez, had the day declared as his own.