LEXINGTON, N.C. — Nearly 20 Elvis artists will take over Lexington for the North Carolina Tribute Festival to the King, Thursday, April 28, to Sunday, May 1.
The state's first Elvis tribute festival consists of performances and appearances by four renowned Elvis tribute artists, along with contests involving 14 up-and-coming Elvises. These "Kings in waiting" range from age 8 to 48, and they will vie for prize money and the chance to advance to the world championships in Memphis, Tennessee, later this year.
Although Lexington is known far and wide as the Barbecue Capital, the city and Elvis Presley have a history. The King played a sold-out concert at the YMCA in 1956.
Lexington tourism director Morgan Brookshire, who attended her first tribute artist festival a few months ago in Tennessee, says it's seeing a resergence.
"The more we dive into this project, we're quickly finding out that Elvis is still very much alive," Brookshire says. "We talked to folks from all over the East Coast who traveled there. You would think, based on the way they were dancing and getting autographs, that it was Elvis himself at the theater."
The headliners' list is filled with the best of the best. Bill Cherry of Illinois has performed since 1989 and won the 2009 Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Competition in Memphis. Joining him are NC native Travis Powell, 2013 grand champion of the Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Competition and 2016 Tribute to the King contest winner; South Carolina's Austin Irby, a three-time semifinalist in the Ultimate Elvis Tribute; and Virginia's Taylor Rodriguez, one of the world's Top 5 Elvis artists.
The festival hits full stride Friday and Saturday with ticketed events at the Edward C. Smith Civic Center on Main Street. The schedule is the same both days: competitions from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., with a headliner concert at 7 p.m. All four headliners perform both evenings.
After-hours parties for ticket holders take place Friday and Saturday nights at Bull City Ciderworks, where several Elvis tribute artists will meet, greet and perform.
The festival concludes Sunday with headliners performing Elvis' top gospel songs at 1 p.m. at the civic center, followed by a wrap-up party at Goose and the Monkey Brewhouse.
"This is North Carolina's first and only tribute festival to the King, and all eras of Elvis will be covered from his early 'Jailhouse Rock' days all the way to his 1970s music," Brookshire says. "We even have an 8-year-old Elvis coming, and he's a big hit."