By Sarah Robinson/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – Downtown merchants say the annual Tupelo Elvis Festival, which kicks off today and lasts through the weekend, means a big increase in business.
Blair and Hamp Hughes, owners of Park Heights restaurant in Fairpark, said of all the downtown festivals, the weekend of the Elvis Festival is their busiest. The proximity of the restaurant to the concerts in Fairpark make the restaurant a popular destination during the weekend-long festival.
Blair Hughes expects the restaurant to take in twice its average weekend sales during the weekend. Other businesses expect to see an increase in sales as well.
Those expectations all hinge on both the weather and festival ticket sales. Jessica Reed, the festival’s marketing associate, said ticket sales for the 15th annual event are on track to match last year’s numbers. However, nice weather Friday and Saturday could boost ticket sales for Fairpark concerts.
This year the Downtown Tupelo Main Street Association board approved spending a little more on the festival to bring in bigger-name entertainers like Cowboy Mouth.
Blair Hughes said that type of investment has paid off for her, bringing in more foot traffic.
“It’s been good for us for them to upgrade,” she said.
The Hilton Garden Inn in Tupelo is sold out for the weekend. Shari Long-Neely, the hotel’s director of sales, said Elvis Fest brings the most business of any festival in town.
“This is the biggie,” she said.
Cafe 212 is usually closed on weekends but owners Amanda and Jason Hayden open for lunch during some downtown events. The Saturday of the most recent GumTree festival was the single busiest day in the seven years since the restaurant opened.
In addition to bringing in dollars, local businesses say the festival brings a unique element to downtown Tupelo with both artists and international guests.
“With Elvis, you see a lot of unique characters,” said Brody Holland, manager of the Main Attraction, a clothing and accessories store downtown.
He said in addition to tourists from all over the country, the festival also brings a wide range of tribute artists.
Hayden was surprised last year to look up from making sandwiches to see an entire line of Elvis tribute artists at her lunch counter. Her Elvis-themed sandwiches, the “TCB” and the “Blue Suede Grill” sold particularly well.
Long-Neely said the presence of the tribute artists at the hotel adds a little excitement to the weekend.
“It’s fun to go down to breakfast and have breakfast with Elvis,” she said.