Accent on Elvis - Foreigners spice up weeklong ‘celebration’
The streets are clearing some. The foreign accents asking for directions have moved from Graceland and Beale Street on to the airport and the Interstate.
And the pompadour-and-sideburns look is soon to be returned to the rockabilly retro kids in Midtown.
The storm that was the nine-day Elvis anniversary is finished, and what a storm it was.
“This is the biggest amount of coverage we’ve ever had for Elvis week,” Graceland spokesman Todd Morgan said. “We haven’t totaled anything, but it was the largest amount of press that we’ve ever seen.”
With a large part of the world watching, Memphis was spiced with international flavors the last week, as fans from around the globe came to pay their respects on the 25th anniversary of Elvis’s death.
“I wouldn’t have missed it for anything,” said Canadian Sylvia Green from her cell phone just north of Nashville, driving with friend Patty Middlebrook. Green, like many tourists in town for Elvis Week, was on her way home Saturday, in her case, Huntsville, Ontario, three hours north of Toronto.
“It was much better this year, I think,” she said, comparing this year’s anniversary week to the 20th and 15th. “I went to the concert last night, and it was really special. And so was the vigil except for the rain and being poorly organized.”
Green’s been coming to Memphis for Elvis Week every five years the last 20 years. For the last five years she has also been making annual trips to the Collingwood Elvis Festival, about an hour south of where she lives.
Even though the Collingwood’s four-day festival just finished a couple weeks ago, Green, who booked her hotel room a year ago (which was an effort), said she wasn’t the least bit Elvised-out.
“Actually,” she pointed out, “(coming to Memphis for Elvis week) is just like visiting a family member. It’s a little depressing at times, like at the concert last night, everybody was there except for the main attraction.
“I took two candles up, one for my son who died when he was little (and one for Elvis.)”
Though Elvis Week is in remembrance of Presley’s death, most spent the week having fun or just running around town for all the countless events.
“We’ve been chasing our tails all week,” said David Lee, an Elvis Tribute Artist in Memphis from Birmingham competing in Images of the King. Lee placed second in Collingwood, which gave him a pass to the finals here.
Other than a few day trips to some of this year’s new Elvis attractions, Lee’s been busy singing in Elvis tribute concerts like the gospel show at New Daisy during the vigil Thursday night and Friday morning.
Lee knows what Green is going through, having made the drive to Collingwood with seven family members. “We’re still talking about that trip.”
Unfortunately, Lee hasn’t had time to take in the week’s events as he’d have liked to. “We haven’t even been up to Graceland this trip,” he said. “I’ve been so many times, but it’s kind of like going to church.
“We have paid respects, but not like the rest of the fans. There’s so much going on that you kind of get pulled in so many different ways.”
Because of so many options, hard choices have to be made.
“I didn’t go to the candlelight vigil,” said Kim Adelman, professed Elvis fan and author of The Girls’ Guide to Elvis.
“I think most people went, not for Elvis, but for the sense of community,” she said about the vigil. “The best thing (during Elvis Week) was the Elvis seminar at the University of Memphis.
“And a real highlight for me, was when I hung out at Graceland on Wednesday afternoon with a bunch of Elvis Tribute Artists, having my picture taken.” Adelman’s notion is that the week is about having fun, and enjoying its uniqueness.
Morgan said, “Elvis Week is not a nine-day wake. It’s a celebration, and it always is.
“Every year it’s people from all over the world, and great fun. A major anniversary year like this just means bigger, splashier, and more people.”
Lots more people, and lots more interest from the worldwide community.
“In my opinion, the parade set the tone for the whole week,” said Jimmy Ogle, director of Memphis’s Rock and Soul Museum, and parade marshal. “It was the first, it was really neat looking down from Elvis (Presley’s Memphis club) onto the streets dancing and holding hands watching Elvis on the Jumbotron. Memphis has really put its good face on for the world.”
He said the foreign visitors are “like dealing with your mom, just as nice as they can be. They just want you to smile, sell them a ticket and tell them the story. I’ve got about 200 Frenchmen to go deal with now.”
Ogle said he’s done more than 15 interviews with international media. “They were most interested in Elvis’s roots, his living conditions, being a common man a humble man, that’s the story this week.”
Green, 61, making her way back to Canada, looks forward to the 30th.
“If I’m still alive, I certainly hope to.”
No Comments Yet
You can be the first to comment!