Elvis Week 2015 Survival Guide
Elvis Week 2015 approacheth! Even though Memphians sometimes claim Elvis fatigue, there's something intriguing about an event that brings 35,000 people to Memphis from all over the world. So learn a little bit more about the King, Graceland, and Memphis music, and then get in on some of the fun.
Elvis Week officially runs from Friday, August 7 through Sunday, August 16. Whether you're visiting Memphis for the week or are a local preparing for the onslaught, here's what you need to know.
Also: Check out the official Graceland Blog from fellow Memphis blogger Alyssa Long. She has some great ideas on how to stay connected during Elvis Week and make the most of this huge event.
1. They're not impersonators, they're tribute artists.
Please, don't call the people paying musical homage to Elvis impersonators. The official term is Elvis Tribute Artists (ETAs for short). There will be plenty of them in town, and while some have greased their hair for fun, others have worked really hard and won a series of preliminary competitions and are here to compete in the official Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Contest. The finals are on Thursday, August 13 on the Orpheum Theatre and are open to the public, but will sell out soon.
Hard Rock Cafe hosts the "Last Chance" preliminary competition to be able to enter the Ultimate ETA Contest nightly August 7-9. Last year, I had the opportunity to be a guest judge for the contest (that's what the picture above is from). It's absolutely worth going to, whether you're an Elvis fan or not, but again you'll want to get tickets ASAP.
2. Plan ahead.
There are a ton of Elvis Week events. Some are official Graceland-sanctioned and others are…not. It's best to plan ahead, especially if you've got limited time. I also recommend buying advance tickets to events ASAP, as seats and space are limited. Here's a very brief, very basic rundown of just a few of the events. For the full schedule and details go here.
– Backbeat Tours hosts the Hound Dog Tour (August 8 and 9) – tour leaves from BB Kings
– The Ultimate ETA Contest (August 10, 11, 13) – Graceland Elvis Week Main Stage
– A Salute to Memphis Music (August 13) – Graceland Elvis Week Main Stage
– Candlelight Vigil (August 15) Procession begins at the gates of Graceland
3. Check Out The Other Elvis and Memphis Music Sites
After you go to Graceland, there's plenty more Memphis music history to explore. Visit Sun Studios (where Elvis got his big break), Levitt Shell (where he played his first concert), and Lauderdale Courts (where he lived as a teen).
You can also take one of the excellent Backbeat Tours – they ride you around town in style while they tell you (and sing about) Memphis' musical history. Especially if you're just in town for the week, you'll want to soak up as much Memphis music as you can, so make time for the Rock 'n' Soul Museum and the Stax Musuem, too.
Don't miss shopping at Lanksy Bros. Clothier to the King at 126 Beale Street (in the photo above) for all your Elvis-inspired outfits (yes, they have blue suede shoes) as well as a bunch of cool Memphis and rock 'n' roll t-shirts.
4. Go to the Candlelight Vigil.
The Vigil is the centerpiece of Elvis Week, and all visitors and locals should do it at least once. It's a somber, candlelit walk past Elvis' grave at Graceland on the day of the King's death on August 15, beginning at 8:30 p.m. (thought people will line up many hours earlier). Elvis Presley Blvd. is closed, and many people set up elaborate roadside shrines. You'll probably be in line for a while, so pack a snack and plan to make some friends.
5. Make time to people watch.
Bishop of Beale Street, last spotted circa 2009.
Whether you park yourself at the downtown Flying Saucer window, walk along Beale at dusk or have dinner at Marlowe's on Elvis Presley, the people watching during Elvis Week can't be beat. If you run into the Bishop of Beale Street, have him give you a blessing.
6. Be prepared for traffic and crowds.
In recent years, about 35,000 people came to Memphis for Elvis week. That's a lot. Consider that many of those people will be making their pilgrimage by car and staying downtown, so prepare to deal with heavy foot and car traffic, especially on Elvis Presley Boulevard and downtown/Beale Street area. If you're going to those areas, allow yourself plenty of extra time. If you're planning to hang out at Graceland for a while, there's plenty of parking, but bring cash.
7. Be Nice
Welcome our Elvis Week visitors to the Memphis area with class. Give directions and suggestions, sing along if you know the words, and don't be afraid to make some new friends. It's what the King would have wanted.
8. Find out more information
If you're visiting and have stumbled upon this blog post, welcome! I (Holly) will be on Twitter all week @ilovememphis answering questions. Plus, there are six years worth of posts about Memphis on this blog, so don't be afraid to use the search bar if you're look for something in particular. Here are some things you might find particularly helpful:
– If you want to stay connected to all the official sources for Elvis Week and Graceland infomration, you can visit ElvisWeek.com, follow Graceland on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or @VisitGraceland Periscope, read the official Graceland blog, or watch the events via livestream at https://livestream.com/
– If you're looking for restaurant recommendations beyond barbecue, here are a few of my favorite places and things to eat in Memphis.
– If you want to get a feel for the candlelight vigil, check out these photos from a few years back.
– If you want to venture out of downtown/Graceland area for some eating, shopping, and entertainment check out my guides to two of Memphis' coolest neighborhoods: Broad Avenue Arts District or Overton Square.
Happy Elvis Week!