X FACTOR finalist Luke Friend was given a hero's welcome as he returned to Teignbridge yesterday ahead of Saturday's big showdown.
Fans travelled hundreds of miles to be in Teignmouth and Newton Abbot to catch a glimpse of the South Devon singing sensation and hundreds of supporters from closer to home turned out in their droves.
The 17-year-old was back home with an X Factor crew, filming ahead of the weekend's final of the TV talent show.
Luke, who is in the final three, was welcomed home to Teignmouth by his mum and dad Sue and Steve and other members of his family.
He then went on to meet fans in Newton Abbot's Lemon Jelli cafe before performing a gig at the Great Hall at Exeter University in the evening.
Newton Abbot was packed with excited fans, many who had made posters and banners.
Mum Sue Potts said: "I'm excited and thrilled to see him, and I can't thank people enough for their support."
Luke said: "I cannot believe the reaction. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would see all these people here for me."
He told The Herald Express he's chuffed to be in the final.
"It felt amazing to go through to the final, it's wicked. It was emotional on Sunday's show as I wanted to be there in the final. I want this so much and I work so hard. I want to do my best and try to win it."
Newton Abbot mayor Cllr Louise Cooke said: "It's great he's come back as he's so busy.
"It was nailbiting to watch on Sunday. It's wonderful so many have come to Newton Abbot to see him."
Mary Moore, manager at the Lemon Jelli cafe, was thrilled to welcome Luke and his friends from Coombeshead Academy. He has played at the venue in the past.
"It's great he's chosen to come to us," she said.
"He's doing so well in the competition. Young people often get a bad press so it's good someone so young is doing something positive is in the media.
"What makes it even better is Luke is a nice lad and is so focused and an original talent.
"The town has been buzzing with excitement."
Dale Fosbury, from Buckinghamshire, made huge banners for Luke, displayed outside his house.
"I was more than happy to help," he said.
Amanda Simmonds, of The Crabshack, Teignmouth, was at Luke's house.
She said: 'We're excited to see him. We've supported him since day one."
His mentor Louis Walsh was with him on part of the trip.
Friend Steve Loader was waiting for Luke at Lemon Jelli.
He said: "I met him three years ago through the Jolly Farmer. It's amazing to see the reaction outside.
"He's such a talent. He's original, unique and an individual."
Martin Baker, manager of the Jolly Farmer and friend of Luke, was at Lemon Jelli to watch him perform.
"It's great to see him home again," he said.
"We've been watching him on the show in the pub each week. There will be a big party atmosphere there this weekend. He's a nice lad and deserves to go far."