PAnews.com, Port Arthur, Texas

May 14, 2013

Southeast Texas rallies around ‘Idol’

Erinn Callahan
The Port Arthur News

SOUTHEAST TEXAS — Pressing buttons repeatedly is a more strenuous task than most might think. But that’s a sacrifice Holly Wilson is willing to make for “American Idol” finalist Kree Harrison.

“I voted 250 times last week,” said Wilson, manager of the Boudain Hut, 5714 Gulfway Drive. “My fingers were sore from punching Redial.”

Wilson’s enthusiasm comes as no surprise, given Harrison’s history at her restaurant.

“Her whole family grew up at the Boudain Hut,” Wilson said. “Kree sang here, and her mother brought her here when she was young.”

Even after Harrison relocated to Nashville in pursuit of a musical career, Kathy Harrison would drop in occasionally to update Wilson on her daughter.

“That’s all her mother ever talked about,” Wilson said. “She said, ‘She’s going to make it one of these days.’”

Sadly, neither Kathy nor her husband Clint are around to witness their daughter’s success. Clint died in a plane crash when Harrison was 12; Kathy in a 2009 automobile accident.

“That’s another reason it’s close to my heart,” Wilson said. “Her mother would be very proud. She’s looking down on her right now.”

Harrison was the pride of her parents’ life, Wilson said. Now, she is the pride of Southeast Texas. With the 22-year-old Woodville native potentially one week away from the “Idol” crown and a $1 million recording contract, “Kreemania” has reached unprecedented heights in the Golden Triangle and beyond.

Amanda Melancon experienced this firsthand on May 4, both at Harrison’s homecoming parade in Woodville and her concert at Ford Park in Beaumont.

“Walking down the street at the parade, I overheard several people talking about how proud they were of her,” said Melancon, who lives in Bridge City. “I got emotional when I saw all of these people supporting this local talent.”

Melancon called Harrison “an inspiration.”

“It's hard not to want to vote for her,” she said. “ With so many terrible role models out there, it's refreshing to see a local girl become such a positive role model.”

Harrison’s grandmother Beverly Mire, a Groves resident, said her granddaughter’s homecoming was just the boost she needed to propel her into the show’s final days.

“The homecoming was just so special,” Mire said. “We were able to spend so much time together, and we needed that. We’re not used to being apart that much.”

Mire said that no matter what Thursday’s outcome brings, Harrison is thrilled with the overall experience. However, she still urged viewers to vote.

“At first, she said her goal would be the top 3,” Mire said. “When she came home, she said, ‘I have a new goal — I want to win this thing.’ She’s got a huge fan base that really loves her, so I think she’s got a good chance.”

If the turnout at Harrison’s homecoming parade and concert are reliable indicators, Mire is right. Wilson can attest to that.

“When we went to the parade, we had these big signs made,” Wilson said. “Her sister saw the sign and tapped Kree on the shoulder. She turned around and saw us. I said, ‘We love you, Kree!’

“She said, ‘I love you, too.’”

Email: ecallahan@panews.com

Twitter: @ErinnPA