One of music’s most beloved phrases could have been said dozens of times Saturday, June 24, in Penticton: Elvis is in the building.
Elvis Presley enthusiasts from across the globe are back in Penticton this weekend for one of Canada’s largest and longest-running tribute festivals.
Dozens of performers at both Okanagan Lake Park and the Penticton Trade and Convention Centre are vying to win the beloved festival, including 70-year-old Robert Falls from Powell River.
“I was at the first Penticton Elvis Festival more than 20 years ago,” said Falls, who added that he has just as much fun on stage now as he did in the early 2000s. “I just love it so much and so it’s nice to all the people here…I’ve never met a bad Elvis fan.”
The festival returned with record crowds in 2022 following a multi-year hiatus. Although Elvis hasn’t officially ‘left the building’ quite yet for the weekend, event organizers are already touting this year’s edition as the best yet.
“It just keeps on getting better and better, and bigger and bigger,” said Mike Schell, president of the festival. “In terms of gate sales, we tripled what we usually do for our opening day (Friday) and topped our record from last year.”
Saturday’s festivities also featured special guest Linda Thompson, Presley’s longtime girlfriend.
The songwriter, actress and former Miss USA Tennessee was joined by her brother Sam Thompson, Presley’s old bodyguard.
Thompson — who’s written songs for Celine Dion, Whitney Houston and the Backstreet Boys — was seen greeting fans, including a six-year-old from Calgary, Noah, who was dressed in Elvis-themed attire.
Then there were others at the festival, like Jeremy Santa Cruz, who hadn’t been to Penticton since 1986 but decided to overcome his nerves and get on stage to sing some of his favourite Presley tunes.
“This is the first time I’m in the impersonator world, and I’m just loving it,” the Richmond resident said.
The festival continues early Sunday morning at Okanagan Lake Park before the event’s finals take place at the trade and convention centre.
Schell says people can still grab their tickets for Sunday by visiting the park.