Downtown with Elvis: 2011 festival opens Thursday

TUPELO – The King of Rock ‘n’ Roll’s hometown isn’t shy about celebrating his legacy. The 2011 Elvis Presley Festival will open Thursday in Tupelo with a carnival and a concert, and it’ll close on Sunday, June 5, 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.”
The carnival will set up near Front Street. Armbands will be available for $15, so people can ride all rides 5 to 11 p.m. Thursday and noon to 6 p.m. Saturday. Regular ticket prices will apply at other times.

The King’s retainers
At 7:30 p.m. Brandon Bennett, an award-winning tribute artist, will perform at the Lyric Theatre with Sonny Burgess and Elvis’ drummer, D.J. Fontana.
“We’ll have four winners of the Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist competition coming to the festival,” Brangenberg said. “They’re Bill Cherry, Victor Trevino, Brandon Bennett and Kevin Mills.”
Round one of the 2011 tribute contest will start at 9 a.m. Friday at the Lyric Theatre. The winner will get a chance to go to Memphis to compete for the grand championship.
Currently, there are no tickets available for Trevino and Cherry’s performance at 7:30 p.m. Friday at the Lyric.
“We do have a waiting list for events at the Lyric that are sold out. If they are really, really interested, they need to go by the box office during the weekend and get on standby,” Brangenberg said. “There are always cancellations.”
After the Trevino and Cherry show, there will be a free street party on North Broadway Street, and everyone’s invited.

Music and more
You won’t have any trouble getting into Fairpark, which will have plenty of room and plenty of music on Friday. There will be performances by Ty Herndon, Black Berry Smoke and many more.
Saturday will open with Running with the King 5K at 7:30 a.m., and it’ll be followed by the Elvis Festival Parade at 10 a.m. in downtown Tupelo. Parade applications are available at
The Riding with the King bicycle race will feature a circuit race Saturday morning, a time trial Saturday afternoon and more events on Sunday, June 5.
You might want to catch a reenactment of the purchase of Elvis’ first guitar every 30 minutes from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. on Saturday at Tupelo Hardware.
In addition, there will be an Elvis Look-a-Like Pet Parade on North Broadway Street at 11 a.m., and the registration fee is $10.
That’ll be followed by a variety of free children’s activities on North Broadway.
“We’re selling raffle tickets at all of the downtown merchants for an Elvis Build-a-Bear,” Brangenberg said. “Those are $1, and they’re available now.”
You’ll find continuous entertainment on North Broadway Street starting at noon on Friday and Saturday.
Round two and the finals of the tribute competition will be Saturday. Standby tickets might be available at the Lyric Theatre box office.
The Fairpark Stage will open at noon on Saturday. The Spin Doctors and Jamie Davis & Soul Gravy will headline a diverse lineup of performers.

Gospel of Elvis
Sunday, June 5, will be dedicated to Elvis’ love of gospel music. Mills will perform as Elvis at First United Methodist Church, along with The Landmarks and the church’s chancel choir.
The music will start at 2 p.m., and you’re invited to fill up on barbecue before the show at 12:30 p.m. during a dinner on the grounds at the church.
That’s a small sampling of the activities available over the weekend. You’ll find a complete list at
It’s the first full weekend in June, time for people from here, there and everywhere to come together in honor of Tupelo’s favorite son.
“We really just want people to come out and enjoy the fun,” Brangenberg said.

Contact M. Scott Morris at (662) 678-1589 or

At Fairpark
– What: Tupelo Elvis Presley Festival at

– When: 5 p.m. Friday and noon Saturday

– Where: Fairpark Stage, Tupelo.

– Tickets: $17 day passes available at
gate, $5/12 and under

– Info: (662) 841-6598, www.tupeloelvis

• 5 p.m. – Jordyn Mallory

• 6 p.m. – Ironwood Bluff

• 7 p.m. – Busted Screen Door

• 8:15 p.m. – Crossin’ Dixon

• 9:30 p.m. – Ty Herndon

• 11 p.m. – Black Berry Smoke

• Noon – Kirk Chism & Lost Highway

• 1 p.m. – Pay-Per-Blues

• 2 p.m. – Kevin Waide Project

• 3 p.m. – Memory Lane

• 5 p.m. – Crashing Broadway

• 6 p.m. – Hobo Hippie

• 7 p.m. – John Milstead

• 8:15 p.m. – Jonathan Singleton &
the Grove

• 9:30 p.m. – Spin Doctors

• 11 p.m. – Jamie Davis & Soul Gravy

More music
Here’s a glance of music events taking place at The Lyric Theatre and downtown Tupelo during the 2011 Tupelo Elvis Presley Festival:

– 7:30 p.m. Thursday – Sonny Burgess and the Legendary Pacers with D.J. Fontana and Brandon Bennett and the EAS Band, Lyric Theatre, $29.
Free open mic event after concert.

– 9 a.m. Friday – Round one: Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Competition, Lyric Theatre, $20.

– Noon Friday – Blue Suede Stage opens with music and entertainment, Broadway Street, free.

– 7:30 p.m. Friday – Victor Trevino with D.J. Fontana and the Brian Dunning Band plus Bill Cherry with the EAS Band, Lyric Theatre. Sold out, but standby tickets might be available. Free dance party on Broadway Street after show.

– 11 a.m. Saturday – Blue Suede Stage opens with music and entertainment, Broadway Street, free.

– 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday – Shuttle will make stops at the Lyric Theatre, Tupelo Hardware, the Tupelo Automobile Museum and the Elvis Presley Birthplace and Museum. Free.

– 1 p.m. Saturday – Round two: Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Competition, Lyric Theatre. Sold out, but standby tickets might be available.

– 7 p.m. Saturday – Finals: Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Competition, Lyric Theatre. Plus performance by Kevin Mills with EAS Band. Sold out, but standby tickets might be available.

– 12:30 p.m. Sunday, June 5 – Dinner on the grounds, First United Methodist Church, Tupelo. $5 for barbecue dinner.

– 2 p.m. Sunday, June 5 – Gospel singing with FUMC Chancel Choir, The Landmarks and Kevin Mills, FUMC, Tupelo, $14. For more information about these and other events, call (662) 841-6598, or visit

M. Scott Morris/NEMS Daily Journal

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