Parkes Elvis Festival nearly 'lost forever' after seven years

Usually during this week every year, Parkes is welcoming and rock and rolling with Elvis Presley fans from across the country and globe by the thousands.

By now the annual Parkes Elvis Festival is well underway, we would have welcomed visitors on the Elvis Express and Blue Suede Express trains, among other forms of transport, preparing for the street parade on Saturday and gearing up for the last three big days of the festival.

But not this year.

This year, which would have been our 29th year, had to be cancelled to protect the town and its visitors from the highly contagious Covid-19 virus and the ongoing pandemic.

But did you know the festival nearly ceased all together in its early days? And would not be anything like it is today without the tireless efforts of a hard working committee and the support of the town?

The Parkes Elvis Revival Festival, as it was then called, began on the second weekend of January - closest to Elvis' birthday on January 8 - 1993.

Numbers were well for the first few years, roughly in the couple of hundreds, but its popularity began to dwindle after seven years and the lack of local support was very obvious.

At the 2000 festival, numbers were down, with some regular Elvis impersonators speaking publicly about how they may not be back.

Organisers turned to the town and said "that unless local support is forthcoming, [the festival is] very much in doubt for future years".

With a competing festival at Morpeth, near Maitland and a small committee, organisers said without support the event could be lost forever.

"We have a really good thing here but it has to be done well - and to do that, we have to have help. Five people cannot do it," organisers said, as published in the January 12, 2000 edition of the Parkes Champion Post.

The following year the festival was held during the town's Australia Day celebrations to coincide with a visit from representatives from Parkes' sister city Coventry in England, which boosted numbers.

Parkes businesses and residents began dressing up for the occasion and Parkes Shire Council hopped on board to help with organisation and promotion.

In 2002 the festival was bigger and the town hasn't looked back since.

2003, according to the Champion Post's front page article on January 13, "huge crowds attended the best festival yet".

In 2019, Parkes had a record-breaking crowd of 27,000 fans and the festival injected more than $13 million into the region's economy.