Australia’s Elvis Festival is still ‘fantastic’ after 30 years

PARKES, January 7 (Reuters) – Hundreds of Elvis Presley impersonators paraded down Parks’ main street on Saturday as the Australian provincial town celebrated the 30th anniversary of an Elvis tribute gala that has become one of the country’s biggest festivals.

“It’s fantastic,” Bob Steele, who founded the festival with his wife Ann, said after a dinner party where guests sang Elvis songs late into the night.

“Imagine that the festival is 30 years old, we are very happy with it.”

The festival, located 350 kilometers northwest of Sydney, takes place each year in early January and attracts around 24,000 fans to the city, which typically has a population of around 14,000.

In addition to Elvis-themed performances, The King’s birthday extravaganza includes Elvis art and photography exhibitions, rock ‘n’ roll dance lessons and Elvis quiz nights.

Although Parks is now known as the Elvis capital of Australia, Steele said some locals were initially skeptical of the event.

“I remember reading letters from various people that they wrote to the newspaper that said, ‘Why should we honor an American? But now they see that it’s pretty stupid, everyone is very happy about it these days,” he told Reuters.

Saturday’s parade, the culmination of a five-day festival that concludes on Sunday, sees participants in jet-black wigs and jeweled jumpsuits parade down the main street.

Other pretenders joined the colorful procession in vintage cars.

Carl Upton, a first-time visitor who made the trip after buying a vintage car and discovering he was a two-time festival winner, called the event “mind blowing”.

“It’s just fantastic,” he said.

Reporting by Cordelia Xu, script by Sam McKeith and Simon Cameron-Moore.

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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