Elvis festival opens Thursday
Posted: Wednesday, June 1, 2011 8:01 pm
By CARLIE KOLLATH
Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal
TUPELO, Miss. (AP) — Businesses are putting out the welcome mat this week for visitors to the Tupelo Elvis Presley Festival.
And this welcome mat comes with an Elvis flair.
Several downtown restaurants will add Elvis-inspired items to their menus this week. Other business owners will have their employees wear Elvis-related T-shirts or glasses. And, of course, Elvis tunes will be the soundtrack of the week.
“The Elvis fan has traveled a long way to get here,” said Jan Pannell, sales manager at Sprint Print. “They are looking for anyone who is excited about the festival and our connection with Elvis.”
Sprint Print decorates its windows with posters from the festivals. The employees wear shirts that have been redone with an Elvis flair.
On South Gloster Street, Rob Hudson chose to go all Elvis all the time at his McDonald’s franchise.
“It’s good for business, but it also demonstrates our commitment to the community,” Hudson said.
A large metal guitar sculpture is outside the restaurant at the corner of South Gloster and President streets. Inside are Elvis timelines, wall art and a decorated guitar that Hudson bought at the GumTree Festival years ago.
“If there is an opportunity to tie in with tourism, it’s not only good for Tupelo tourism, but it’s good for business — period,” Hudson said.
His efforts have been rewarded by Elvis-related tourists, who visited his former location on South Gloster and listed it on fan sites as a must-see destination while in Tupelo.
Cafe 212 in downtown also has been popular with the tourists, so co-owner Amanda Hayden makes a point to cater to their enthusiasm.
The restaurant switches to Elvis music when tour buses stop in. And, this week, Cafe 212 rolls out a special Elvis menu with names such as the Blue Suede Grill, the TCB Grill, the Hounddog and the Blue Hawaii. The Elvis menu will become permanent in a few weeks, in addition to the regular menu.
“We need to embrace what Tupelo is about and do what we can to help our tourist industry,” she said.
The restaurant also will change its hours to be open Saturday for the festival.
The goal for the businesses, said Craig Helmuth of the Downtown Tupelo Main Street Association, is to make the Elvis fans feel appreciated.
“Even if they don’t come in your store, make them feel Elvis,” he said.
Bernard Bean, a partner in the Eat With Us Group, which owns Fairpark Grill, Harveys and Peppers, began encouraging businesses several years ago to decorate for Elvis’ birthday and for the festival. His restaurants get into the spirit with special menu items, costumed servers and special T-shirts.
“I just think with Elvis being born here, he is probably what we are best known for and citizens need to celebrate it,” he’s previously said. “Anything to have a little fun and celebrate our community is good.”
The 2011 Elvis Presley Festival will open Thursday with a carnival and a concert, and it’ll close on Sunday with a gospel singing.
Between those two events, fans will get to watch preliminaries for the Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist competition, take part in a dance party, enjoy a parade or two and soak up music at the Fairpark Stage.
“It’s always fun this time of year,” said Debbie Brangenberg, festival director with Downtown Tupelo Main Street Association. “All the friends we’ve made through the years, they come back and we just have a great time.”
Elvis Aaron Presley was born Jan. 8, 1935, in Tupelo, Miss. He died at Graceland in Memphis on Aug. 16, 1977.
Elvis Presley Festival, http://www.tupeloelvisfestival.com
Information from: Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, http://nems360.com/
Published in The Messenger 6.1.11