The Elvis Festival
WOW what a great festival. They say a picture says a thousand words, well I took over a thousand photos – here are just a few of them.
The 2018 Elvis Festival celebrated 50 Years since the '68 Comeback Special. The festival takes place the second week in February from the Wednesday to the Sunday. There were competitions, displays, a street parade, and heaps of free entertainment, especially in Cooke Park.
Starting north of town, at the Henry Parkes Centre, one can get local information and visit four museums: The Kings Castle houses a good collection of genuine Elvis artefacts; The Motor Museum has classic cars; Henry Parkes Museum tells the history of Sir Henry Parkes; and The Antique Machinery Museum.
Heading into the CBD, on the left is Kelly Reserve. When we are on a road trip and drive through Parkes, we always stop at Coles and the French Bakery and then we stop at Kelly Reserve to make lunch. There are mini replica gates of Graceland and Elvis' Wall of Fame that we must have driven past at least 20 times, and never knew they were there. The wall has plaques dedicated to rock and roll singers through the decades. 2018 will be the Emmanual Brothers. Apparently the Emmanuel family lived in Parkes and the brothers, Tommy and Phil, went to Parkes High School.
The local Library is one street back from the the main street, Clarinda Street. We went there on the Wednesday morning to see the JFK Photographic Exhibition, 'American Visionary: John F. Kennedy's Life and Times', which is only being displayed in 12 countries around the world, and Parkes is only the second venue in Australia.
Also in the Library, we saw a video on '25 Years of the Parkes Elvis Festival'. The festival had its beginnings over dinner in the Gracelands Hotel – across the road from the van park. The library also played Elvis movies free throughout the festival.
Walking down the main street, some of the shops have an Elvis display in their windows. An interesting shop is Colouby, with items from the 50's and 60's, as well as clothes to purchase to dress up for the festival. It was definitely a fun shop.
Parkes also has a Public Art Trail at present consisting of 6 art works, all situated along, or nearby Clarinda Street. 'The King' art work is in Court Street and visible from Clarinda Street.
Fun while walking around the festival was looking at the large number of people dressed in costume – clothes of the 50's and 60's, and Elvis and Priscilla wigs, even children and dogs were in costume. There are plenty of cafes, clubs, pubs and eateries, both in Parkes and in Cooke Park. We had a few things in the park, that were ok, and had lunch in one of the clubs which was good, but the best food was at Paragon Cafe on Clarinda Street.
Clubs and venue places had paid and free entertainment. Even the Parkes Radio Telescope held a Elvis Tribute Artist Dinner. There was so much entertainment that it was hard to choose, and the good thing was that most of the entertainment was walking distance from the CBD. The main street had buskers of all ages from the Tuesday to the Sunday. There was Elvis Trivia and Elvis Bingo.
The Elvis Tribute Artists were, on the whole, good. We saw many of them free in Cooke Park. Jack Gatto (ETA winner 2016), Sean Luke Spiteri, Ben Thompson (UK), and Marcus Jackson were the best we saw. We were lucky to see Jack Gatto as his shows were mostly paid shows. We saw his free show at the Cooke Park stage. One fun event was the renewing of vows on Sunday. Ben Thompson sang two songs at this renewal ceremony. He was very good.
Some of the shows, we thought, were expensive ($66) and many were booked out months ago. As well as the ETA, we saw tribute artists for The Blues Brothers, Roy Orbison, The Beatnix, Tom Jones. A girl group 'Amitie' were great and sang all the songs that I grew up with.
We had some very hot days – Friday was a hot 39 degrees C (102 F) but on Saturday for the parade it was grey and rainy and a top of 19C (66F). That didn't stop many from watching the parade. The local morse code group even handed out free raincoats. The parade went for an hour and most ETA were included as well as local and far away groups.
Parkes has for a long time had a statue of Henry Parkes in the main street. This year a statue of Elvis was officially unveiled 12 January, but it was actually unveiled for media on Elvis' birthday 8th January – and that was when we saw it.
Buses do a circuit every hour. At Spicers, there were two buses running on different circuits, which meant people could get a bus every half hour. Fares were $4 per ride, or $16 for the whole Festival – Wednesday to Sunday. Information about what was on was easily available in most places, from a lovely 84 glossy page book ($8) to a fold and take any where free pamphlet – and everything in between.
Everyone should experience it even just once, although I'm sure most will want to come again and again. One 'Can't Help Falling in Love' with this festival. We have booked for next year.