By Danza Johnson/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – Some Elvis fans needed Elvis fans to sit through grueling heat at the 2011 Elvis Presley Festival on Saturday.
Julia Pierce vigorously waved a handheld fan with a picture of The King’s face on it as she bobbed her head to music on the Fair Park lawn downtown.
Usually a couple hundred people gather around the main stage in the heat of the day to hear various bands play The King’s music and a little of their own. However, with a heat index of 102 degrees, Pierce was one of less than 100 on hand to partake in the afternoon festivities.
“It’s hot,” said Pierce as beads of sweat formed on her forehead. “I can’t believe I’m out here but I haven’t missed an Elvis Festival yet and I wasn’t going to let the heat run me away this year either.”
Children usually get to play in the Fair Park fountain by themselves, but not this year. Several of the adult festival patrons dipped their feet in the water and rubbed it on their faces to cheat the heat. Charlie Irvin of Hamilton, Ala., joined his children in some fountain play and he didn’t care that his Elvis hairdo and signature sideburns got soaked.
“My blue suede shoes are sticking to the pavement,” Irvin joked as he cooled his feet in the fountain. “This is probably the hottest I can remember the Elvis Festival being. But it’s still a day of good music and festivities, so for me it’s worth the suffering through the heat.”
Carnival rides went around and around without children on many of them. Melody Stone of Tupelo took her children to the carnival so they could enjoy the festival rides, but after inhaling a mouthful of heat, she decided to take them to Chuck E. Cheese’s instead.
“It’s just too big of a risk to have small children out here in this type of heat,” she said as she strapped her son back in his car seat only seconds after getting him out of it. “This type of heat can’t be healthy for anyone. We love The King but we’re going to have to enjoy him at sundown today.”
Event organizers said the daytime numbers were down at this year’s festival but expected high numbers for the evening concerts. Many couldn’t wait for bands like the Spin Doctors, the John Milstead Band and Crashing Broadway to hit the main stage Saturday night. Many came to buy their wristbands early so they wouldn’t have to sit in the sun or wait in long lines later.
“To me the Elvis Festival is all about big bands and this year’s festival has a lineup that I’m excited to see,” said James Hughes of Corinth. “Sure, it’s hot, but the performances are gong to be even hotter.”
A final count of Saturday’s festival attendance was not ready by press time.
Contact Danza Johnson at (662) 678-1583 or email@example.com.
For more great pictures of Elvis Fest 2011 pick up a copy of Sunday’s Daily Journal.