What began as an idea in 1979 and germinated with the opening of Graceland in 1982, Elvis Week has rocketed onto the world stage as the premiere Elvis event held every year. Elvis Week 2010, held in Memphis August 10 - 16, promises to be even better than last year when up to 50,000 fans from around the world came to pay tribute to the King of Rock and Roll. Kevin Kern, the Director of Public Relations at Elvis Presley Enterprises (EPE) for the past five years, said that this year's activities will include a 5K run, bingo at the Heartbreak Hotel, meet and greets with artists and Elvis Tribute artists, a screening of the "Elvis on Tour" documentary, tours of Graceland, the ever-popular candlelight vigil at the gates of Graceland, and the Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist (UETA) semi-final and final rounds of competition.
Kern grew up in a home with Elvis' music playing most every day, His parents were big fans of the King, so it was natural for him to become a fan himself. Kern, who admittedly has the career of his dreams, was most impressed with the way Elvis treated his fans. "Elvis always appreciated his fans", he said. "He always made it a point to go the the gates of Graceland to meet and talk with his fans."
Tom Brown, of Turner Broadcasting, agrees. "Elvis is a great example of what anyone can be from a small town", he said. Brown hails from Tupelo, Mississippi, as did the King. His own success in broadcasting has interesting parallels and connections with Elvis. Starting off from the same humble beginnings, Brown worked hard at what he loved and moved his way up the ladder. "Whenever I told someone where I was from, they invariable mentioned Elvis", he said. "I became the 'Elvis expert' wherever I went and I grew to love it". He also admits to dancing and singing along to all the Elvis songs whenever he judges or emcees an event.
This year's Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist contest promises to be a very tight competition. The competition is held to find the artist who gives the best representation of the King and this year's top prizes include the 2010 title, $20,000 cash, recognition by Elvis Presley Enterprises, the opportunity to tour with the UETA tour, and many other prizes. Last year's winner of the event, the only officially sanctioned event by Elvis Presley Enterprises, was Bill Cherry of Illinois. Cherry will be back for a performance in the final competition this year.
Though many exciting events will be held, the focus of all of the events will be the memory of the man who came from humble origins and found fame. The fame continues to grow today as Elvis fan clubs count millions among their members. Brown related a story told to him by Janelle McComb, a family friend of the Presley family from the early days in Tupelo. "Many times Elvis would make the drive back to Tupelo unannounced to visit his homeplace. He couldn't believe how famous he was and was always uncomfortable with his fame, wondering how long it would last." Brown paused for effect, then continued, "The reason he persisted when he was feeling alone or down was his fans".
When asked if Elvis would be proud of what Elvis week has become, Kern said that "Elvis was be very happy. He adored his fans as they adored him." Come Elvis Week 2010, tens of thousands of Elvis fans will come to Memphis to display that adoration to the man they love and still call the King.