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Yes, Elvis, we remember you: thousands gather for 2022 festival gospel service

2022 Parkes Elvis Festival gospel service

After every concert, Elvis Presley would turn to his tour manager and ask, "do you think they enjoyed the show?"

Charles Stone never had a problem answering that question.

But occasionally, he revealed at Sunday morning's gospel service as part of the 2022 Parkes Elvis Festival, Elvis would follow that by asking, "do you think I'll be remembered when I'm gone?"

It's more than 44 years since Elvis died and looking across the thousands gathered in Cooke Park to hear the gospel music and stories of "the king of rock 'n' roll", Stone could answer that with certainty too.

"Look out here!" he said.

"Yes you will, Elvis!

"He's probably looking down thinking, oh my goodness I never thought that would happen," Stone added.

"God bless you, Elvis has not left Parkes today."

Stone, who knew both Elvis and Colonel Tom Parker, travelling with Elvis about 200 nights a year, spoke through the Elvis Festival in a unique opportunity for 2022 attendees.

On Sunday morning, in an on-stage interview with MC Deputy Mayor Neil Westcott, Stone particularly paid tribute to Elvis's love of gospel music.

"Elvis Presley was a true Southern gentleman and he was very spiritual," Stone said.

"In Las Vegas, after he did his second show which finished maybe about 2 o'clock in the morning, he would have the Stamps Quartet come up to his suite and they would sing gospel music 'til daylight - three to four times a week

"He loved gospel music."

The gospel service, an ever-growing feature of the annual festival, recognises that with the gospel choir and special guests Anthony Petrucci, Dean Vegas, Gavin Chatelier, Lexine Solomon and Taylor Rodriguez performing a beautiful selection of gospel songs Elvis recorded.

Parkes' Pastor James Leach spoke of this year's theme movie, Speedway, and how the generosity of the main character impacted him.

Victoria Paige Mayerink, who was almost seven when she performed the role of Ellie Easterlake in Speedway, sent a video for the service.

She spoke of the examples of generosity in the movie ... but reflected more on the generosity Elvis showed her, a child, through filming.

"For me the most generous anyone can be is with their time: that is the most generous gift in the world, someone's time and their attention," she said.

"And that is what Elvis shared with me.

"Sometimes we invited the grown ups to join our game of Gin Rummy or Go Fish ... but most of the time it was just us, making books for Baby Presley - it was announced on the set that Priscilla was pregnant, they were expecting, and he was so excited about being a father.

"He would come to my trailer every day and feed my kitten to keep it alive that I was hiding on the set.

"These are the things that I remember."

She also observed how generous Elvis was with his fans.

"Every time we'd walk to the commissary (for lunch there'd be a crowd of people that would form around him and they would all have things they wanted him to sign or ask him a question," she remembered.

"He would stop and most graciously respond, and interact with them.

"I learned a lot from him and how he cared so much that they were supporting him in his work. He valued them and it was clear that he cared.

"He gave of his talents, his time and himself - and that's what I treasure the most, we should all learn something there."

During the service, donations were accepted towards the Salvation Army's flood appeal and supporting scripture in local schools.