Star of the show

Published 8:17 pm Thursday, November 22, 2012

Singer-songwriter Mike Aiken sits outside the art gallery in Smithfield in a clip from a music video he shot in the town recently. Aiken said Smithfield provided the perfect atmosphere for his Christmas-themed video.

Smithfield is becoming a hot TV destination

The holidays came to Smithfield a little more than three weeks ago, when musician Mike Aiken dropped in to shoot a music video for his new Christmas album.

Aiken, whose Christmas CD is called “Almost Christmas,” is a big fan of the Isle of Wight town, where his namesake music festival, Smithfield Music’s Aiken & Friends Fest, has been running for several years.

To those who know a little about the town, Smithfield is instantly recognizable from Aiken’s video, with the distinctive rustic red barns of Windsor Castle Park and the statue of an elderly couple on a bench outside the art gallery.

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“A couple of towns were in the running,” said Aiken, whose music blends various genres, including country, rock, calypso and folk.

“I really haven’t been to many small towns that would be, for a video shoot, as quaint. Of course, having a Christmas tree for the Christmas video was made to order.”

The deal was sealed for Smithfield when Aiken’s director visited the town. “One of the things we were waiting for was for Halloween to go by,” Aiken said.

Judy Winslow, tourism director for Smithfield and Isle of Wight County, noted that Smithfield has become a popular destination for film and production crews.

Two talented young local artists, Celeste Kellogg and Bria Kelly, both chose Smithfield for shoots.

Kellogg’s video has appeared on television on the Country Music Channel and Great American Country, Winslow said.

“It’s very photogenic, Winslow added of Smithfield. “It’s the quintessential small town; it’s the small town everybody wishes they were from.”

Regent University shot a movie at Windsor Castle Park, and the town has also featured on The Food Channel and in “Investigation Discovery” and “Sixteen and Pregnant.”

“We have had numerous visits by Paula Dean, and Smithfield Foods has shot national television commercials here,” Winslow said.

Town officials are currently in talks with another production company for the possible shooting of a reality program showing “a slice of everyday life in a small town,” she added.

Aiken, who with wife Amy Aiken spends most of his time sailing to distant ports, said they would probably live in Smithfield if they ever decided to settle in the once place for good.

“Years ago I weathered a hurricane and came up to Smithfield to hide from it and walked through the town,” he said.

Almost Christmas, with six tracks, is available online and in stores. You can see the video shot in Smithfield at