By Chris Kieffer
TUPELO – Elvis fans from throughout the world are visiting the Elvis Presley Birthplace Park today to celebrate Fan Appreciation Day.
The day begins activities for Elvis Week, which remembers the anniversary of the artist’s death.
Lesia Marcum of Birmingham, Ala., drove here with her husband and two nieces to celebrate her 30th Elvis Week. Written in white chalk on the back window of the family’s Pacifica was “Elvis Week 2013 Rock & Roll TCB.”
I come because he is Elvis,” she said. “The magic, the heart, the voice, the spirit, the man, his kindness. No matter the mood you are in, he can cheer you up.”
Debbie Ponce and Adela Martinez drove here from New Mexico, and a tour bus brought guests from the United Kingdom.
Blair Hill, assistant director at the Birthplace, said he looked up during his opening remarks and saw his friend, Walter from Brazil, whom he only sees on Elvis’ birthday and during Elvis Week.”
It is like welcoming family back home,” Hill said.
This is the first year events will be held entirely on the grounds, thanks to a new amphitheater and theater that opened last August. Previously, entertainment and food was in the church across the street.
The venue for tonight’s concert was moved, however, because of the threat of rain. Ben Portsmouth, who won the Ultimate Tribute Artist contest in Memphis last year, will now be performing at the Tupelo Middle School Civic Auditorium at 109 Varsity Drive.
Portsmouth’s concert was originally scheduled to be held on the grounds but was moved because of the threat of rain. Gates open at 6 and the concert starts at 7. More than $200 tickets have been sold, Hill said. They cost $35.
Upcoming events include lunch at 11. Several people who knew Elvis during his early years will tell stories about him in the chapel, between noon and 2.
Also, a musical lineup in the theater will begin at noon. It includes Kay Bain, the Landmarks gospel quarter, Tupelo Unity Choir and an Elvis Tribute Artist.