Larger than life.
Nearly three decades after first seeing Elvis on a neighbour’s black and white television set The King still owns Elizabeth Howarth’s heart.
Last weekend she like thousands of others, braved the torrential downpours and thunderstorms to rekindle that love affair in person at the 11th annual Penticton Pacific Northwest Elvis Festival.
Bundled up in make-shift rain gear with only their eyes visible or hunkered down under umbrellas in Okanagan Lake Park, the sour weather did not dampen the spirits of those attending Saturday’s day-long show or the always popular gospel event the next morning.
The only real breaks for audience members were Saturday’s tribute show and the Sunday finals inside the Penticton Trade and Convention Centre.
“The rain? No it doesn’t bother me, I’m here for the love of Elvis and besides, I’ve got my umbrella anyway,” said Howarth (aka Elvisabeth) of Vancouver, dressed in her best Elvis duds and sitting in the front row for the gospel show. “His spirituality is still very much present, he was such a beautiful man. This is fantastic. Absolutely everything is just wonderful. It’s so much more than I imagined and I am going to take these memories home with me and they will live in my heart for a long time to come.”
Betty Anderson of Chilliwack echoed those sentiments.
“What I especially love about the festival is that it gives me a chance to relive those days, to be young again and at least for a little while just forget about everything else and have fun. Listening to the artists I can just sit back, close my eyes and for that moment go back to a simpler time. I guess you would call it an escape but there’s nothing wrong with that, everybody needs a holiday once in a while.”
Among those performing this year, but not competing, was Penticton’s Adam Fitzpatrick who did his first event on a dare and is working nearly full-time now as an Elvis tribute artist. A victory earlier this year at a California competition has put him in the line up for the Ultimate Elvis Contest this August in Memphis Tenn.
“It’s been really good this year and even though it’s been wet and rainy the fans are sticking in there,” said Fitzpatrick during a break from signing autographs. “I wasn’t alive when Elvis was alive but this gives me that feeling of how important he was and what he meant to a lot of people.”
Although representing the California festival, he admits his heart will be here.
Fitzpatrick will be competing at the Ultimate Elvis Festival against Eli Williams of Vancouver, who won the Penticton professional division. Runner up was Corny Rempel of Steinbach, Man. followed by Mario Kombou of London, Eng. Top amateur was Roger Anderson of Bonney Lake, Wa., Alan LeBlanc of Delta was second and Nanaimo’s Rob Knight finished third.
Overall, festival society chairman Terry Michaels was pleased with the weekend results, although he admitted the attendance figures for the outdoor shows were down substantially as a result of the rain.
Organizers are hoping for a bigger turnout in the coming years with the Elvis Festival moving to June 28 to 30.