Smithfield welcomes Bria home

Published 9:03 pm Saturday, May 10, 2014

During Smithfield’s homecoming for Bria Kelly on Saturday, the star from “The Voice” signs the arm of Meagan Yoakum, 10. (MATTHEW A. WARD/SUFFOLK NEWS-HERALD)

During Smithfield’s homecoming for Bria Kelly on Saturday, the star from “The Voice” signs the arm of Meagan Yoakum, 10. (MATTHEW A. WARD/SUFFOLK NEWS-HERALD)

Smithfield’s “The Voice” contestant Bria Kelly received a warm and enthusiastic welcome home Saturday, returning the gesture with a soaring performance and a ton of autographs.

The celebration of Bria’s return from Los Angeles, where she made the NBC talent contest’s top 10, was hosted by Smithfield Foods.

Hundreds of townspeople — many of them pre-teen girls eager to see their hero in person after watching her on TV — assembled on the grass at the company’s corporate headquarters, unfolding lawn chairs and unfurling blankets.

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They did so after watching Bria parade along Main Street waving at fans from the back of a car, her parents Bob and Jan Kelly doing the same from another car following behind.

“Thank you so much for coming out today,” Bria told the crowd from atop the steps to the front door of the Smithfield Foods building. “I did want to make one thing perfectly clear, in case there were any doubts: I love Smithfield!”

Bria then proceeded to thank a whole lot of people, who she said have helped her all the way.

Top of the list were her parents: “Mom and Dad, thank you for doing everything for me that needed to be done during this whole process.”

Life in L.A. while on the show was grueling, she said. “Sometimes I finished filming at 1 a.m., and had to get up at 6 a.m. the next day,” she said.

Will Brunt, senior vice president of marketing with Smithfield Foods, presented Bria with a year’s supply of ham, bacon and peanuts — “so she never forgets where she comes from,” Brunt said.

Smithfield Mayor T. Carter Williams regaled the crowd with his tale about how Bria’s stint on “The Voice” caused him to add the program to his television viewing list — alongside the likes of “Duck Dynasty” and “American Pickers.”

“There are 2,800 homes in the town of Smithfield, and at least two televisions in every single home, making 5,600 televisions tuned to something called ‘The Voice,’” Williams said. “I was blown away by seeing a girl from Smithfield, a little bitty thing called Bria.”

Williams presented Bria with the keys to the town.

Bria put on a show for her fans, belting out “Ain’t No Sunshine,” “I’ll Stand By You,” “Wild Horses,” “Rolling in the Deep” and “Steamroller Blues.”

“We really, really, really love Bria,” 11-year-old Meadow Hall said.

Jim Abicht of Smithfield Music read aloud a few examples from what he said was a long list of messages for Bria, including from Bob Kelly: “Bria, your mom and I couldn’t possibly be more proud of you.”

After she sang, Bria signed autographs and met with fans. She signed 10-year-old Meagan Yoakum’s arm.

“She absolutely loves her,” said Bill Yoakum, Meagan’s dad. “She just adores her.”