Lonely Planet Writer

King fever: Elvis festival kicks off down under

The 2016 Parkes Elvis festival kicked off yesterday, with some 22,000 Elvis fans expected to converge on the eastern Australian town.

Parkes, Elvis festival, 2014.
Parkes, Elvis festival, 2014. Image by Ropbert Montgomery / CC BY 2.0

Established in 1993, the theme of this year’s festival is ‘Fun in Acapulco’. The five-day program is jam-packed with family-friendly events, including free entertainment, look-a-like contests, Tribute to Elvis competitions, a street parade, displays of Elvis artefacts and a ‘Cars of the Era’ show.

The festival begins with a busking competition that sees the streets of the small town lined with Elvis impersonators belting out the King’s hits. Jeff Hancox, the winner of last year’s competition, returned to Parkes this week to defend his title. “The atmosphere of Parkes is great and I love the fact that everyone is here for the same reason — to celebrate Elvis” he told Australia’s ABC.

Elvis festival, Parkes, 2014.
Elvis festival, Parkes, 2014. Image by Robert Montgomery / CC BY 2.0

Festival Director Emily Mann notes the festival is very much a community-driven event, with local businesses and some 75 volunteers devoting countless hours to staging the event each year. The results, she says, are worth the effort. “The fun of the Festival is infectious. There is the most wonderful vibe in Parkes during the festival. Everyone just wants to enjoy themselves.”

Anne Stonely, who travelled from Gladstone, Queensland, enthusiastically agrees. “Where else can you dance in the street?” she asked. “It’s like Rio except we have it here in Parkes.”

The festival will close on Sunday night with a concert featuring the yet-to-be-named winner of the Parkes 2016 Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Contest. Stay tuned…