HED: Fans gather to celebrate Elvis’ birthday

PHOTOS BY C. TODD SHERMAN

HED: Fans gather to celebrate Elvis’ birthday

- The event at the newly renovated museum draws an international audience.

BY SHEENA BARNETT

Daily Journal

TUPELO – It was a celebration fit for a king – purple balloons, a lavender cake and more than 200 fans singing “Happy Birthday.”

Monday marked what would have been the 72nd birthday of Elvis Presley, as well as the official opening of the newly renovated museum at Presley’s birthplace in east Tupelo. Cars with license plates from Georgia, Massachusetts, Florida, Texas and others states filled the parking lot. Three buses rolled in: one with Pennsylvania fans and two full of Elvis followers from England.

“I think this is the biggest crowd we’ve ever had for his birthday,” said Henry Dodge, president of the Elvis Presley Memorial Foundation.

Fans young and old gathered in front of the museum to hear Dodge speak about Presley, his 13 years of childhood in Tupelo and what the new museum had to offer.

“Elvis truly personified the American dream,” Dodge said during his speech. The museum shows “all the powerful influences that makes the pauper prince into the King of Rock n’ Roll.” Royal purple was the color of the day.

After the speech, a ribbon was cut on the new museum and the audience went inside to enjoy purple punch and cake with light purple icing.

Among those cutting the ribbon on the museum was Elvis fan Sandra Lecomber from England. She was picked from all of the English fans to represent international fans.

“It was very exciting. I was shaking,” she said, speculating she was chosen because of her sparkling black Elvis shirt and pink Elvis jacket.

Lecomber has toured Elvis’ Memphis home, Graceland, but this was her first journey to Tupelo. She and her boyfriend won the trip to the states in a bingo game.

Another fan from England was Andy Kennett, who stood out from the crowd with his black hair styled in a Elvis-like pompadour – a style he said he keeps year-round. It was Kennett’s first trip to Tupelo.

“I absolutely love it,” he said. “It’s the trip of a lifetime.” Kennett’s been a fan of the King since he was young.

“You get to watch the programs and movies, and you grow to love him,” he said.

Some fans didn’t have to cross an ocean to get to his birthplace. Lucy Blair and other women from her Red Hat Society drove in from Shannon.

“I’ve been here three times,” Blair said. She said she attends Presley’s birthday celebrations “to remember him.”

“And I read about the renovation, so I wanted to see that. And to be around other people who love Elvis.”

Contact Scene reporter Sheena Barnett at 678-1580 or sheena.barnett@djournal.com