(Reuters) – Thousands of hip-shaking Elvis Presley impersonators and fans of the late King of Rock and Roll returned on Thursday to the Elvis Festival in the Australian country town of Parkes for the first time in more than two years.
Now in its 29th year, the Parkes Elvis Festival was cancelled in 2021 because of COVID-19, which also pushed back the event this year from January, Presley’s birthday month, to April.
The festival, the biggest event of the year in Parkes, 357 km (222 miles) west of Sydney, attracts around 25,000 people, and business owners are happy the tourists are back.
“We have missed it. Not only business-wise, but we’ve missed the people, we’ve missed the fun, we’ve missed the music,” local business owner Kristy Berry told Reuters.
The Elvis Express train pulled into Parkes on Thursday
packed with sideburn-sporting Elvis imitators, welcomed by jubilant fans who posed with them for photographs.
The festival holds a special place in the hearts of the Elvis impersonators.
“I love it every time I come to Parkes. It’s the only festival that the whole town is immersed in Elvis,” said Elvis tribute artist Kingsley Rock.
“When you sing a song and a genuine Elvis fan really reacts to that and enjoys it, that’s the reward.”
(Reporting by Cordelia Hsu; Writing by Christian Schmollinger; Editing by Jane Merriman)