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lucky to have scored a bedroom through the town’s home-stay
program, serviced by a festival shuttle bus.
Dressed in 1950s gear, we board the shuttle for the first time
to a chorus of ‘hellos’ from the bee-hived and brylcreemed
passengers already singing along to the sound system. We
arrive in the centre of town to find one enormous, good-natured
party revolving around Cooke Park, where an open-air stage
features non-stop entertainment and surrounding food
and market stalls. Clarinda Street transforms into Festival
Boulevard as buskers battle it out in front of Elvis-themed
store windows. Vintage cars and caravans line the street
and, at night, The King is projected onto building facades.
Festivalgoers of all ages, shapes and sizes wear Elvis garb or
retro gear, making people-watching a favourite pastime, and
everyone’s willing to pose for photographs. Elvis’ music
transcends generations, and it’s a family-friendly festival, with
junior Elvis and Priscilla look-alike contests, dancing competitions
and poolside shenanigans. Most of the entertainment is free,
apart from concerts featuring international tribute artists.
This ETA business is serious stuff. The winner of the Parkes
Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Contest gets to compete in the
world semi-finals in Memphis. The talent in the final is awesome,
but there’s only one winner and this year it’s Brendon Chase.
Over the five-day festival there are more than 120 events in
the park, pubs and clubs. Elvis movies and documentaries play
at Parkes Library. There’s Elvis bingo, trivia, karaoke and
gospel, Elvis at the Trots, Dinner in the Vines with Elvis, and the
hilarious ‘unofficial’ Elvis rugby match, where teams wearing
white Elvis jumpsuits that leave little to the imagination play a
friendly game over a few beers.
I meet Miss Priscilla 2017, aka Jackie Batt, and she tells me,
despite having to get up at 6am for hair backcombing and
makeup, it’s a great honour to represent a festival that generates
millions of dollars for the town. She attends the Renewal of Vows,
where an eclectic mix of couples dressed in everything from
shorts and thongs to frothy wedding gowns, publicly declare
their love in a humorous and heart-warming ceremony.
The Northparkes Mines Street Parade attracts Elvii and
Priscillas by the party-load – on floats, in Cadillacs, riding
bicycles and on foot. Some have spent months preparing
elaborate costumes for the Viva Las Vegas theme, while others
have thrown together last-minute entries. It’s hilarious good fun.
We squeeze in visits to The Kings Castle, home to Wiggle Greg
Page’s Elvis memorabilia and the private collection of Elvis
Lennox. But it’s the music that’s the highlight of the festival.
Aaron Mansfield nails his Roy Orbison tribute, bringing tears
to some eyes, and deep, sultry voices reverberate off the walls
at the Ultimate ETA Finale, where revellers dance in the aisles
and fans steal kisses and sweat-soaked scarves from the Elvii.
As the mayor and Miss Priscilla bid the Elvis Express farewell
on Monday morning, I think Priscilla must be looking forward to
finally letting her hair down – until next year at least.
30 OPEN ROAD
Festivalgoers of all ages, shapes
and sizes wear Elvis garb, making
people-watching a favourite pastime
The 26th Parkes Elvis Festival will
run from January 10-14 , 2018,
with a ’68 Comeback theme.
Where to today? The beaches of the Fleurieu Peninsula?
Wineries of the Coonawarra? Or explore the UNESCO
Heritage Listed Naracoorte Caves? The beauty of South
Australia is that the freedom of the open road is yours for
the taking. There’s no limit to what you can do, see and
experience. And to help you on your way, we’ve created
six uniquely themed self-drive touring routes, including
the Southern Ocean Drive.
Find out more at nrmatravel.com.au or call 1300 053 052.
13/02/2017 11:36 am
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