By Sheena Barnett/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – The 2011 Tupelo Elvis Presley Festival came to a close Sunday afternoon with a gospel concert full of locals and an Elvis tribute artist.
Performing at the First United Methodist Church was Tupelo-based gospel quartet The Landmarks, tribute artist Kevin Mills and the church’s Chancel Choir.
Host Renee Baldwin welcomed the audience and spoke about how gospel music was a huge part of Elvis’ life in Tupelo.
“This is where he learned how to sing, where he learned what motivated him,” she said.
The choir opened the show with “Down to the River to Pray” and continued its set with “Old Time Religion,” “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms” and “Peace in the Valley.”
The Landmarks followed with traditional gospel songs, such as “Standing in the Shadows,” and originals like “Some Things That I Love.”
Toronto-based Elvis tribute artist Kevin Mills, who won last year’s Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist competition in Tupelo, focused on the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll.
“I’m gonna do some Elvis gospel for you now, if you don’t mind,” he said before launching into “I’m Gonna Walk Dem Golden Stairs.”
Mills and The Landmarks also sang “Amazing Grace,” “He Touched Me,” “Swing Down Sweet Chariot” and “How Great Thou Art.”
Festival Director Debbie Brangenberg called the weekend a success.
“It’s been a fabulous weekend,” she said. “We’ve had lots of out-of-town and out-of-state visitors.”
While temperatures flirted with 100 degrees, Brangenberg said the festival was lucky to have few folks who were seriously affected by the temperatures.
Brangenberg was a part of the festivities this year as she sang with the choir at the gospel show. She called it a “wonderful, uplifting experience.”
“The gospel event is a wonderful way to close out the weekend. He loved gospel music,” she said of Elvis.
The gospel show was the favorite event of Scott and Sandra Kripps from Niagra Falls. This was the couple’s second consecutive Tupelo Elvis Presley Festival and they said they love both the city and Elvis.
“I think what brought us here was our love for Elvis, but what brought us back was the people in Tupelo. Everybody is so kind,” Sandra Kripps said.
The couple took in everything from the Country Music Trail unveiling at the birthplace on Thursday and will return home today. The pair said they will definitely come back for the 2012 festival.
“We’ve been here for five days. It’s gone so quick,” Sandra Kripps said. “It might be six days next year; there’s so much to see and so much to do.”