Elvis turns 78

By Sheena Barnett/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – Elvis Presley’s birthday gifts include festival announcements, lights at his statue and, of course, cake.
The King of Rock ’n’ Roll’s 78th birthday culminated with entertainer announcements for the 15th annual Tupelo Elvis Presley Festival, which include rock band Cowboy Mouth on Friday night and country stars Montgomery Gentry on Saturday night.
When Montgomery Gentry’s name was read at the announcement party at Park Heights on Tuesday, several in attendance gasped. That was music to the ears of Russell Conerly, a festival chairman.
“I think we’ll start with that and built on that,” he said.
The lineup is not complete and should be finished soon; tickets will go on sale soon after.
Brent Farrar, a Tupelo artist, painted the 2013 festival poster, a watercolor featuring the Elvis statue in Fairpark.
Just before the poster was unveiled, the statue was lit thanks to Philips’ donation of locally made lights, and it was unveiled at the Park Heights meeting.
“We unveiled the statue on Aug. 9, 2012, and we can see from our offices nearly every day people from all over the country and all over the world hold that hand and take that picture,” said Tupelo Mayor Jack Reed Jr. “But no one’s had the chance to have their picture taken at night, until now.”
Elvis’ birthday celebrations began at the Elvis Presley Birthplace on Tuesday afternoon.
Fans from England, Pakistan, Cuba and closer to home enjoyed birthday cake and sang “Happy Birthday.”
Booneville resident Shirley Cain, 71, was invited to cut the birthday cake because it was her birthday, too. As a big Elvis fan, it was an honor.
“I’ve loved him. I’ve always loved him dearly,” she said.
After the cake, fans filed into the theater to screen a 15-minute music video-style film featuring the Tupelo Unity Choir. The film, commissioned by the Tupelo Convention and Visitors Bureau and made by John Wee and Roy Turner, featured the choir performing all over Tupelo.
The Unity Choir performed a 45-minute set following the movie, moving many in the audience to tears.
Jerri Price, an Elvis fan from Lillian, Ala., has been coming to the birthplace to celebrate Elvis’ birth for 10 years, and this year marks one of her favorite celebrations.
“It’s been wonderful,” she said. “Elvis fans would love this, because it’s what he loved. I was just sitting here thinking, ‘He’d be so proud of this.’”
sheena.barnett@journalinc.com

Birthplace, city, festival celebrate

• Tupelo Elvis Presley Festival entertainment lineup
All Elvis tribute artists at The Lyric
June 6: Victor Trevino, Bill Cherry
June 7: Brandon Bennett, Kevin Mills
June 8: Tyler Hunter, David Lee, Cody Slaughter
In addition to the concert on Saturday, there will be a tribute artists panel, “Conversations on the Ultimate,” moderated by Tom Brown.

At Fairpark
June 7: Cowboy Mouth
June 8: Montgomery Gentry