Elvis Festival connects despite COVID-19

2020 festival poster

It seems 2020 is turning out to be a year like no other. Virus pandemic, quarantines, economic collapse, rioting in the streets.

But one thing that remains a constant is the annual Tupelo Elvis Festival. Sort of. But the show must go on.

What had been a live music event in downtown Tupelo and other city venues has been renamed the Tupelo Virtual Elvis Festival, now in its 22nd year. That’s right, it will be held completely online this year, now through Sunday.

It actually began yesterday with the 4 p.m. Showcase hosted by Tom Brown and featuring the Elvis Tribute Artists; at 7 p.m., the first of three Through the Years! after parties with Jeff Lewis & Friends kicked off. Most of the events are available for free on Facebook at the Tupelo Elvis Festival page: https://www.facebook.com/TupeloElvisFestival.

Many events will also happen on the festival website: www.tupeloelvisfestival.com. However, several events are closed and no tickets are available. Those include the Through the Years! parties tonight and Saturday night and the VIP Only Experience Saturday at 1 p.m., a meet-and-greet with the Elvis Tribute Artists.

Dalton Russell, program associate for the hosting Downtown Tupelo Main Street Association, said the private events are open to folks who bought package tickets beginning in January for the festival that was still planned for this week in downtown Tupelo. The pandemic and the need for social distancing, of course, derailed that. Purchasers were offered refunds or a transfer of their admissions to next year’s festival; Russell said surprisingly few chose refunds.

“As much as we want everyone to be in Tupelo, they can’t due to restrictions,” Russell said of the disease prevention protocols in place.

Musicians will be performing in their homes or distant studios through a communications program similar to Zoom, which has provided venues for many performers as well as business conferences, conventions and educational events.

The free events scheduled are as follows:

THURSDAY *Louisiana Afternoon with host Tom Brown, Brandon Bennett, Nick Perkins and Jay Dupuis, 1 p.m. *Youth Showcase, 2:30 p.m. *International Night with host Tom Brown, Diogo Light, Ron Glaser and Ben Thompson, 4 p.m.

FRIDAY *Conversations with Tom Brown and special guests, 2 p.m. *Friday Night Fever with host Tom Brown, Cote Deonath, David Lee and Dean Z, 4 p.m. *Through the Years! Jeff Lewis & Friends after Party, 7 p.m.

SATURDAY *Dilworth Animal Hospital Virtual Pet Parade, $10 entry per pet, $1,000 in prizes, 8 a.m. *Living History with Tupelo Elvis Fan Club, 12:30 p.m. *Tupelo to Memphis with host Tom Brown, Bill Cherry and Taylor Rodriguez, 4 p.m.

SUNDAY *Gospel Show with host Tom Brown and ETAs, 3 p.m. Also featured in concert accompanying the tribute artists will be Australian band T.I.C. (Tributes in Concert), known for their ability to faithfully and meticulously recreate artists’ original performances, including Elvis Presley’s. A video performance by Mississippi native singer/songwriter will be available on the festival website.

Russell said festival merchandise – t-shirts and posters – are available for purchase through the aforementioned websites.

“It’s going to be a different experience this year,” Russell said. “And we hope this is the only year.”

For more detailed information, visit those websites. And wash your hands.

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