2011 Penticton Elvis Festival professional winner Mark Anthony of Australia receives a congratulatory kiss from a fan at the South Okanagan Events Centre.

2011 Penticton Elvis Festival professional winner Mark Anthony of Australia receives a congratulatory kiss from a fan at the South Okanagan Events Centre.

Penticton all shook up over Elvis

11th annual Penticton Elvis Festival which feature performer Gino Monopoli kicks off Friday.

Elvis may have left the building, but for the past 11 years the crowds keep him coming back to Penticton.

The Penticton Elvis Festival has tribute artists gracing stages in Penticton for a weekend of remembering Elvis through his musical library. Festival chairman Terry Michaels said the weather forecast doesn’t have him concerned.

“Every year this time we are looking up at the clouds, but it has always cleared up. We had one rainy night about five years ago and it was a bad storm, but it came just as we were finishing so we have been very fortunate,” said Michaels.

The Penticton Elvis Society has brought a couple of people to share their knowledge of Elvis as individuals who knew, worked with or shared a significant part of their life with the King of Rock ‘N’ Roll. Cynthia Pepper, who co-starred with Elvis in Kissin’ Cousins will be in Penticton to share her stories and love of Elvis with fans. Pepper guest starred in many television shows and played Sandra Dee’s roommate in the movie Take Her She’s Mine. Elvis’ drummer of 14 years, DJ Fontana, will also be at the festival and performing a set during the Sunday finals.

On Friday, the opening ceremonies take place at Okanagan Lake Park starting at 6 p.m. This year there are eight amateur and eight professional artists, along with a few special guest appearances that will take place over the weekend.

On Saturday, the Tribute Artist Competition begins at the same location at 9 a.m. This is a preliminary event for the Ultimate Elvis Competition held annually in Memphis, Tenn. on Aug. 16. The professional division winner in Penticton wins entry to it.

“The top prize winner there gets $20,000 plus a lot of contracts so it is really worthwhile for someone to try and win one of the qualifiers. I think there is only about 30 festivals where you can qualify,” said Michaels.

Also on Saturday, at 8 p.m.,  Gino Monopoli with the Ultimate Elvis Show Band take the stage at the Penticton Trade and Convention Centre.

“He is a very popular tribute artist. We have about 400 tickets left but we are pretty confident it will sell out so if anybody wants tickets they better get them quick,” said Michaels.

Monopoli is one of only two, two-time Penticton Elvis Professional Champions (2003 and 2009) and one of the most recognizable and loved tribute artists to have performed in Penticton. He has performed all eras of Elvis’ career in several different countries. Monopoli prides himself on adhering to the various representations of Elvis throughout history. Tickets for this event are separate from the day/weekend passes.

Sunday is the gospel music showcase at 9 a.m. at Okanagan Lake Park which is typically the highest attended event of the weekend.

The gospel showcase shares the inspirational music library of Elvis with the talents of all the participating tribute artists. Every year, this show supports a local charity for which thousands of dollars are raised.

“It is phenomenal. I guess it is so popular because of the music. Elvis only won three Grammys and he won them for his gospel music,” said Michaels.

Following the gospel showcase the tribute artist finals will take place at the Penticton Trade and Convention Centre at 2 p.m.

Tickets can be purchased at www.valleyfirsttix.com, by phone at 1-877-763-2849 or at the Penticton Wine Country Tourist Centre. Friday night tickets are $10, Saturday competition day in the park tickets are $15 or wristbands for both events are $20.