AS The King once sang, “any place is paradise”.
It rang true for nearly 400 Elvis Presley diehards aboard the sold-out CountryLink Elvis Express yesterday as they made the annual expedition from Sydney’s Central Station to the Parkes Elvis Festival, their own personal paradise.
The pilgrimage was less of a train ride and more of a party and offered entertainment, tribute artist Carmine Cimilio, concerts and plenty of food and refreshments for the Elvis lookalikes and soundalikes on board.
This year is the 23rd edition of the Parkes Elvis Festival, and more than 15,000 quoff-loving fans are expected to converge on the country town to pay tribute to the king of rock’n’roll.
In turn, the Parkes economy is set to receive an estimated $9 million boost over the five days.
Parkes mayor Ken Keith said the town was buzzing and caravan parks and hotels had been filling up since Monday.
“It’s just such a huge event for the town, and the friendly camaraderie we see among the punters is fantastic,” he said.
“We’re expecting big numbers again, even if they have plateaud a bit over the past couple of years.
“We would need to change the format to get many more people here, but with it being as successful as it is I don’t think we need to.
“People can come here and enjoy the festival, and still get the comforts of home like air conditioning at the end of the day.”
With more than 150 events scheduled in a jam-packed five day program, Cr Keith said punters could rest assured they would not be left wanting.
“There are a few major highlights in the program that I’d recommend,” he said.
“Of course, the visit from Ms Cynthia Pepper is the major feature event for the weekend.”
Ms Pepper starred alongside Elvis in the 1964 hit movie Kissin’ Cousins, which is also the theme for this year’s festival, and will provide fans with a unique opportunity to find out what working with The King was like.
Saturday’s street parade is traditionally one of the most popular events, Cr Keith said, and features floats along with cars and trucks of the era.
Cr Keith said it wasn’t just the town’speople getting geared up for the event.
“We had a harness meeting in town on Wednesday and even had a horse dressed up as Elvis,” he laughed.
The Parkes Elvis Festival started on Wednesday and concludes on Monday.