6:45am, Sunday, June 10, 2018
Soon it will be time to leave our visit with Elvis Presley behind and carry on with our trip, and move north and west. It's been an wonderful immersion in Elvis, in particular here in Tupelo. WOW!!! I admit to feeling a tad emotional about leaving, perhaps it's like saying goodbye to Elvis all over again, maybe it's because today is Sunday.
Yesterday was a long day, leaving the campground at 8:23am and not returning to our site until 9:50pm. Such a amazing day, though..... let me tell you about it. An early start was important, despite Round 2 of the competitions not going on until 10:30am, to beat the heat, so to speak, and re-visit Elvis' birthplace to capture a couple photos missed the day before and also to walk that beautiful place once more and catch the last few sites on Elvis' Tupelo driving tour and to . We caught them all but next time might need to go into Johnnie's drive-in and sit in Elvis' booth and maybe chat with a friend of his, Guy Harris (only learned this piece last night). It makes sense that people still in this town could have a history with Elvis. This was his birthplace and home for the first 13 years of his life and would've been a very small town back in 1935-1948. The hardest one to find was the one for the Mud Creek Swimming Hole but we found it. Not an appealing place to swim but I could appreciate it offered a reprieve from the heat. It is hot here -- 98 degrees by late afternoon, though I was told in that soft southern drawl "it can be warmer." When I took the photo of Harvey parked beside the ballpark where we walked the Music trail to the Mud Creek swimming hole I could look left and see up to his birthplace home and one street closer I could see, through the trees, the original site of the Assembly of God church Elvis' family joined and then to the right the ridge of lush trees lining the creek. Wow!
From his birthplace:
From Elvis' Tupelo driving tour:
Near 10am we attended Bancorp South Arena again for the semi-finals. There were now 10 ETAs (Elvis Tribute Artists) and they would sing 2 songs back to back. After the two songs, Tom Brown, the MC, would ask them a question or two. We loved the format of this competition. The competition was so tight in the end picking 5 would be hard. I did pick all 5 but did have 6 names and Denis had 3 names matching the judges to move on to the finals which would commence at 6:30pm.
Between the end of the semi-finals and the finals we had lunch, toured Tupelo a bit more then wandering downtown, despite the heat, to catch some of the previous Ultimate Elvis winners (the ones we visited - Victor Trevino Jr, Brandon Bennett, Bill Cherry, and Ben Thompson) in the various stores and just get a feel of this lovely, little town. The artist known as ARCY (I had not heard of him before this Elvis Festival) was in town creating a new mural on the brick surface of the one corner of their building. The store is 113 years in Tupelo!!!
I even saw Elvis and his mom, Gladys, walking across Main Street and entering the Tupelo Hardware Co., now Ace. And what a store that is!!
A bit of rest in Harvey and then back into the Bancorp Arena for the Finals and showcase. The arena was much busier for this event, as is often the case, but still not full. Behind us sat a couple and the woman chatted with me and told me how she was one of those teenage girls going crazy over Elvis when he played in the fairgrounds in Tupelo. How amazing that was!!! She was so sweet, she had been asking about my festival t-shirt and that prompted her to tell me her story as she has a t-shirt from that momentous occasion in her life but she goes on to say she can't wear it now (too small). Their daughter was one of the photographers of the Festival and their son and daughter-in-law were there, too. I chatted with the daughter-in-law, too, a lovely memory of the southern hospitality that exudes the area. At the end of the final songs by the five semi-finalists I declared the 3 M's would win, just not sure of the order -- Mark Anthony, Matt King, and Michael Cullipher (all of whom we had seen prior to this competition - I do wonder if this plays a part in our thinking). A showcase followed with last year's Tupelo winner, Cote Deonath, then David Allen, Dwight Icenhower, and finally Jay Dupuis (three past Ultimate winners in Memphis). In the end this, our final Tupelo Elvis Festival event, would be three and a half hours long - great value for this incredible talent.
The results would surprise both Denis and I. Only Mark would end up in the top three and he took third. Second went to Ted Torres and first place, Tupelo's entry to Memphis this year, would go to Nick Perkins. Matt came fifth and Michael fourth. Not close to what we saw but Nick Perkins did appear to be a popular win and, like Denis and I discussed, the difference could've been a matter of points, and Denis and I are NOT judges. The talent was incredible in this competition.