By Nyk Carnsew and Stephanie Gardiner
Blue suede shoes and jumpsuits have adorned the platform at Sydney’s main train station as hundreds of Elvis fans gathered for the nation’s biggest celebration of the king.
The crowd – full of costumed fans – awaited the annual “Elvis Express” at Central Station on Thursday morning before making the six-hour rail pilgrimage to the Parkes Elvis Festival, which runs until Sunday.
Besuited Elvises and Priscillas of all ages waited while live performers played covers of the singer’s iconic songs.
Regular attendee Alfred Vaz – better known as the “Bollywood Elvis” – turned up for this year’s departure in a gem-studded red costume as he made the journey to his 15th festival.
When asked for his favourite Elvis song, Mr Vaz responded with (Let Me Be Your) Teddy Bear before breaking into a rendition of the 1957 number.
First-time attendees Liz Connell and Nancy Richards were joined at the wrist with handcuffs and wore matching police and prisoner costumes to match the festival’s 2024 theme, Jailhouse Rock.
While they haven’t attended the festival before, the duo are life-long Elvis fans.
“Sixty-four years old and we’ve never been before,” Ms Connell said.
Uncle and nephew Damien and Luke Barden arrived in matching gold Elvis costumes for a trip they have been making together for several years.
“It’s just too much fun … when 30,000 Elvis fans are at the same thing as you, you can’t go wrong,” Damien Barden said.
Mel Gray is not an Elvis devotee herself, but she will be attending the festival with her husband and fan David, as well as their friends Mandy Connor and Noami Clarke.
The couple wore matching Elvis and Priscilla costumes.
“We’re not Elvis fans, we’re his harem,” Ms Gray said with a laugh.
The train’s interior was decorated with coloured streamers and fans sang their favourite songs together as they made their way to their seats.
The annual festival is in its 31st year and attracts about 25,000 visitors to the small farming town in central-west NSW, bringing in an estimated $13 million each year.
Parkes’ Clarinda Street briefly transforms into Graceland, jam-packed with vintage car enthusiasts and crooning performers.
International tribute acts Taylor Rodriguez and Cote Deonath will headline a concert series, while Elvis-themed rock ‘n’ roll dances, dog shows and bingo rounds will fill the town’s pubs, clubs and street corners.
With temperatures set to rise as high as 34C during the festival, revellers will be full of burning love for Elvis in their bejewelled suits and plastic pompadour wigs.
Festival director Joel Ulbricht said while the event has international recognition, the rural town’s residents remained at the heart of festivities.
“For small businesses, hotels, restaurants, cafes, retail outlets, all of our 25,000 visitors help bring a great start to January, which is traditionally a very dry season for the central-west,” he said.
“It’s not just one or two people running this event, this is community-driven.”
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