The Tupelo Elvis Festival is gearing up for its 19th year. Organized by Downtown Tupelo Main Street Association and taking place June 1-4, the fest will take over BancorpSouth Arena and Fairpark as an estimated 10,000 attendees descend on the birthplace of the King. The arena will house all the Elvis events throughout the weekend while Fairpark will host live bands Friday and Saturday of the festival. We spoke with Sarah Stewart of Main Street Tupelo about what to expect and how it all came together.
“This is my first year working on the Elvis Festival, I came on in January,” said Stewart. “So we looked at it and asked ourselves how we could improve it.”
The first point of business was adding Thursday’s music line up, under the name of Music at The Mill, which features exclusively Mississippi performers. Jackson rapper SilaS will open the night at 6 pm. Following him will be Light Beam Rider/H.A.R.D., Rock Eupora, and The Weeks who will close out the night.
“Meredith Martin and Will Crockett both came on to help with planning the musical acts,” said Stewart. “They wanted to really make it feel like a festival and bring in bands of all genres.”
In addition to the lineup of artists at BancorpSouth Arena and Fairpark, Downtown Tupelo Main Street Association has teamed up to promote the live music local business will host throughout the day. Venues featured for Saturday include South, Vanelli’s, Steele’s Dive, Thirsty Devil, Nautical Whimsey, Kermit’s Outlaw Kitchen, Blue Canoe, and Link Centre.
“It used to be that the Elvis Festival was just downtown, but we wanted to make it a city wide event,” said Stewart. “No matter where you are in town, be it eating good food, at Fairpark, or at Bancorp, you’re hearing live local music during Elvis Festival. I just talked to [the business owners] and let them book their own music so you get a really diverse set of music all Saturday during the day and even during the night.”
There’s great music all weekend, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Over at BancorpSouth Arena, the Elvis fandom will be going strong.
Since the inaugural contest in 2006, the Elvis Tribute Artist Contest has been a staple for tribute artists from all over the world to show off their talent for the chance to take home the Elvis Tribute Artist Prize Pack.
“We are a preliminary contest for the Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist held in August during Elvis Week in Memphis,” said Stewart. “We have 20 contestants and the tribute artists are from all over the world. We have one from Germany, one from Switzerland, and five from the UK. It is just outstanding, the representation that will be at the Elvis Festival this year.”
For those who have grown up in Mississippi and Memphis, it is easy to forget what a worldwide phenomenon Elvis is.
“I was talking with a business owner in Tupelo and she was telling me [she] and her husband were on vacation in Ireland at this hole-in-the-wall bar and the bartender asked them where they were from. When they said Tupelo, Mississippi, he almost fell out. He was so excited because he had been saving to go to Tupelo to see the birthplace of Elvis. I thought that was just the coolest story.”
The winner of the contest will receive a $5,000 cash prize, lodging for three nights in Memphis for Elvis Week, a commemorative plaque, a guitar from Tupelo Hardware Company, be the featured performer at next year’s festival, and have the opportunity to represent Tupelo at the Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Contest.
“The Pet Parade is sponsored by an animal hospital named Dilworth. It is just such a fun experience that we have on our schedule and yes, we do have pets dressed up as Elvis.” Said Stewart. “All of the proceeds go the Tupelo-Lee County Humane Society. It’s so cute and so fun.”
The parade offers multiple prizes for different categories including the best Elvis look-a-like, the most unusual, and best costume. The largest award goes to best in show which offers a $500 cash prize.
If you’re more of a historian, stop by the Elvis Movie Poster Exhibit featuring all 33 movie posters from the King’s time as an actor.
“It is held at the Tupelo Automobile Museum year-round and is one of three complete collections in the world,” said Stewart.
For the health minded types, the Elvis Festival will be hosting a Running with the King 5K marathon with proceeds going to the Boys and Girls Club of America. Registration fees are $25 if you pre-register by June 1 or $30 if you register the day of. Only those who pre-register will be guaranteed a shirt. First through third place awards will be given in four categories: Overall, Masters (40 years-old and over), Grandmasters (50 years-old and over), and Great Grandmasters (60 years-old and over).
Weekend Passes are $20 or day passes can be purchased for $12.50. Tickets to Music at the Mill must be purchased separately for $10. Event tickets are available now at tupeloelvisfestival.com/pages/tickets.