Elvis Week 2017 ~ A Review by Guest Author Karey Larkin
My Elvis experience: I am a long time Elvis fan, with only a few visits to Graceland under my belt, but after my first visit, I got the Graceland fever. There are no words that can express how you feel being there, feeling as if you could turn back time and share in some of the memories and camaraderie we have all read about. My first visit there the new Memphis exhibits did not exist. The car museum was there of course, but the trophy room still held all of those precious possessions, gold records, etc., and the displays were in the racquetball courts. My most recent visit, and my first ever Vigil and Elvis Week, everything was different. Now, I must say, as a newer visitor to Graceland, I do not have the point of references that a lot of fans have, as the displays and exhibits have obviously evolved tremendously over the years. So as I planned my visit for Elvis Week, purchased my tickets for the tour and experience ahead of time, scheduled my tour, and tried to map my week out, I was only focusing on my excitement and adventure for my visit! I soon shared in some stories and fan experiences that touched my heart. I really had no idea what I would be walking away from with this visit.
I came to Elvis week with my significant other and our 5 year old daughter. We were on the fence about bringing her, but we decided to have her come along, as she is already an avid Elvis fan, AND it was a mini vacation for her before school started. Although, not exactly what she envisioned for a vacation. not to mention, it did limit our adult activities, but that’s the price you pay sometimes as a parent, right? 🙂 SO, off we ventured on August 13th, packed and ready for our 10 hour drive ahead of us! We planned to visit some landmarks we had never seen before on Monday, Marlowe’s for some infamous BBQ and fans on Tuesday, vigil Tuesday evening, (as long as the little one could hang), and then some more landmarks before departing on Wednesday.
I have to say, until you experience an Elvis week in person, you really have no concept of what this man really still does mean to so many people in this world. So many wonderful stories from fans who had the chance to meet Elvis and spend time with him, in his home, share in parts of his life. Stories from fans on how he has motivated them to be who they are today, changed their moods, gave them purpose in life even. I have always considered myself a big fan, but I do not hold a candle to some of these people who truly feel like he made incredible differences in their lives. The opportunity to hear these accounts, feelings, stories firsthand, and see the emotions of so many people at the vigil… there are no words for how touching it is and how important you can see these moments in life are to so many.
The night of the vigil, after our mansion tour and our trek back on the “secret entrance/exit from Graceland (our tour driver had to go this route due to the incredible number of fans already gathered outside the gates! Seeing the amount of people there was incredible!) we headed over to finish our Elvis experience at the new buildings, the planes, and Gladys’ Diner. Again, not having as much to reference as to how it used to be, I really enjoyed seeing all of the exhibits, memories, vehicles, The Suit collection, etc. However, it did seem very inauthentic compared to how they were displayed on my previous visit. Much more commercialized, and having to have our tickets available just to walk through exits was a little frustrating.. On a much lighter and very unexpected note, my partner had planned a surprise that made this trip one I will never forget, as he proposed to me on the Lisa Marie Plane!! I was so shocked. I had no idea he was planning this. And I am so thankful our daughter was there to take part in that moment. A memory frozen in time, and my Elvis was a part of it as well. Something I will forever be grateful for on this visit.
The vigil was so incredible. The sea of fans, the memorials set up along EP BLVD, the flower arrangements and tributes set up in the meditation gardens. It absolutely took my breath away. And I had the exclusive opportunity to be on tour with a longtime fan who was there, 40 years go, who went to the viewing and saw the flowers then. She shared with me that there was a flower arrangement there 40 years later, that had been there all of these years, Spelling out Elvis in flowers with a number 40 added for this year.Sharing in that memory was very special.
There were many other memories I was blessed in sharing also, and a lot of them broke my heart. There was a shock to longtime fans due to the change in the displays, the charges to see a lot of the memories of Elvis, and most importantly, the charges added just to attend the vigil. I am aware of the explanation on this charge, as it was related to needing additional security because of protests at the vigil the year prior, however that did not ring entirely true to me due to the fact that this charge was also included on the “entertainment Tent”, where many fans would also have the opportunity to somewhat go back in time, listening to talented ETAs, and celebrate with Elvis and his legendary music performed. There was now a charge for all of this. What really moved me is how I saw that some people saved all year, scrimped and scrounged all the change they could, just to be able to drive there and attend the vigil and share in some of these memories in the tent… only to be shocked that they would now have to pay for this experience with money they could not part with. This experience means that much to some people. It is not about the mansion tour, or the suits to them. It was simply about taking part in that fan based candlelight vigil, being able to imagine Elvis on that stage again, performing..and being able to feel close to something they feel literally changed their lives. To see people have to give that up because they simply could not justify paying that extra money in their group. It really tore me apart, and at the same time, gave me an appreciation for fans that I may have judged too harshly in the past, not understanding the motivation to care so much.
To sum up my visit and my experience, I really loved being there, being a part of this history, being close to the memories, creating new memories of my own and for my family. At the same time, it also gave me an opportunity to really see the importance of trying to preserve his legacy for what it really stood for, which was not the commercialization of Graceland, the expansion to generate revenue, and unnecessary charges for a night created by fans, cherished by fans, and should be preserved for fans.The whole experience really gave me an opportunity for a deeper understanding of why a lot of people need his inspiration in their lives, and why his legacy needs to be preserved as it was meant to be.
Probably way more wordy than what you wanted, but that is my truth! I hope you can share some of my thoughts and memories with your fanbase also! Thank you for this opportunity! I think I will go ahead and send you a follow up email right after this one with Nana Ames’ post from the group. Thank you again!
Have a blessed day!