All the King’s men and women
Elvis Week kickoff starts with a rockin’ parade
For 25 years fans have been making their pilgrimage to Memphis to salute the King of Rock and Roll.
But Friday night on Beale Street, many of the King’s men and women came out to salute the fans.
For anyone living under a rock the past few days, Elvis week, which locals morbidly call “Death Week,” officially began with Saturday’s fan-appreciation “Elvis Presley 25th Anniversary Celebration of Life Parade.”
“I wouldn’t miss this for the world,” said Robert Washington, who came from Auburn, Maine, for the anniversary.
“The 25th, man, this is something.”
Jack Soden, president and CEO of Elvis Presley Enterprises, officially approved the parade/street party that ran from west of Danny Thomas Boulevard down Beale past Fourth to Second.
In an unofficial count, Memphis police estimated 5,000 to 8,000 witnessed the nine Elvis-themed floats, including a Lilo & Stitch number with hula dancers, and an inflated basketball shoe from the Memphis Grizzlies, and others.
Also in the parade were more than 20 hound dogs, members of the Memphis Harley Owners Group (HOG), lots of vintage cars and local and state officials, all parading by a bleacher full of Memphis royalty, including Sun Records founder Sam Phillips.
The parade, organized by Pat Kerr Tigrett, an internationally-known fashion designer and Memphis supporter, started slowly because of a snafu that had many of the parade participants lined up out of order.
The crowds walking up and down Beale during the parade moved easily, and for the most part quietly, except for when the HOG members cruised by, cranking their bikes’ engines to fans’ delight.
Also making noise was a small group of people gathered near the west end of the parade route in front of a projection screen that flashed TV outtakes and video footage of Elvis from throughout his career, along with plenty of pop-culture references from the likes of George Herbert Walker Bush and Al Gore.
Elvis sightings might have decreased in the last few years, but Friday night easily made up for any drought as Elvises from all eras mingled among the mass of people lining the parade route.
One of the Elvis dignitaries enjoying the festivities was South Bend, Ind.’s Irv Cass, the 1999 winner of the Images of Elvis (now known as Images of the King.), the Super Bowl of Elvis impersonator contests.
“You meet so many nice people at these things,” Cass said, who performs throughout this year’s Images contest.
“I think Elvis would have been ecstatic about this (parade).
“A lot of people think that Elvis fans are freaks, but for the most part, they’re just regular, ordinary, middle-class good people, just like Elvis.”
Sharon Stemple came all the way from Kent, England, for the celebration.
“I love this,” Stemple said. “I came for the anniversary. I’m having a great time so far.”
Fireworks capped the parade, shooting from the rooftops of Beale nightclubs, the colors blending with the clubs’ neon signs.
The candlelight vigil will be Thursday night into Friday morning, the 25th year since Elvis died.
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