This year marks the 30th anniversary of Elvis? death, and organizers at Graceland are gearing up for what is sure to be the biggest Elvis Week ever from Aug. 11-19.
Elvis Week grew out of the first Elvis Candlelight Vigil, which was held at Graceland on Aug. 16, 1978, a year after Presley?s death.
Fans have returned every year since to pay their respects, and the vigil has grown to the nine-day event it is this year.
Keeping interest in Elvis ? and Elvis Week ? going strong is really just a matter of putting Elvis and his work in front of the audience and letting Elvis do the rest of the job, says Todd Morgan, director of media and creative development with Elvis Presley Enterprises.
?People respond to him, that magical quality that he had. There?s just something so engaging and fascinating about him. And it transcends time,? Morgan says.
While some find the celebratory atmosphere of Elvis Week at odds with the fact that it is held at the time of Elvis? passing, Morgan points out that the event is a positive occasion.
?Elvis Week is a celebration of Elvis Presley?s life and work,? he says.
The part of this summer?s celebration that?s captured the most attention so far is EPE?s first-ever officially sanctioned Elvis Tribute Artist contest. While not every Elvis fan is keen on ETAs, Morgan says that EPE realizes that tribute artists offer a way to reach a new audience.
?We?ve watched the ETA phenomenon evolve through the years,? Morgan explains. ?It?s a different game than it was 15 or 20 years ago. So, we saw a business opportunity. We felt if we were able to create an official ETA contest, we could see media attention put on the really good entertainers. If we got in the game, we could help elevate it. Because the ETA phenomenon is not going away, that?s something we accepted a long time ago. So, rather than peacefully but separately co-exist, we decided to get involved. And who knows what it will lead to. It?s not out of the question we could get into tribute-artist representation on some level.?
There are new exhibits at Graceland, too. ?Elvis Jumpsuits: All Access? features most of the outfits Elvis wore during his ?70s touring years, many of which have never been on display. You?ll also find the suits Elvis and President Nixon wore on the day they met each other; the Nixon Library had borrowed Elvis? outfit for a display at its venue, and now is returning the favor.
If you?ve wanted to spend more time on the Graceland grounds than you do on the mansion tour, you?ll get your chance this year as part of two ?Music & Movies at Graceland? nights. On Aug. 13, the featured picture is ?Viva Las Vegas;? on Aug. 14, ?Elvis: That?s The Way It Is? will be screened. Live entertainment also is planned.
And if you?ve enjoyed the anniversary concerts that feature Elvis singing on screen while a live band accompanies the image, this year you?ll have two to choose from: the ?30th Anniversary Concert? (where Morgan promises that Elvis will ?enter the building? in a new and interesting way), immediately followed by the show ?Elvis: Midnight In Vegas.?
While the ?30th Anniversary? show is currently sold out, last-minute tickets may become available as the set and seating are finalized; as of press time, tickets were still available for ?Midnight In Vegas.?
Visit www.elvis.com to get more information about Elvis Week, Graceland and the smaller-scale version of Elvis Week that is held around the Jan. 8 anniversary of Presley?s birth.
Mike Freeman is the co-author of the best guide to Elvis sites, ?Memphis: Elvis-Style,? and he and his ex-wife even used to live in Elvis? home on Audubon Drive.
Since 1990, Freeman has attended Elvis Week, which he likens to a family reunion.
?People come back every year, and