Record Crowd Recalls Elvis 30 Years Gone

Under a scorching sun at Graceland, his beloved home, fans streamed by Elvis Presley's grave on Thursday, the 30th anniversary of the death of the king of rock `n' roll. It was, for most, a time to remember. "I can't describe how I feel about him because I've loved him since I was a teenager," said Katie Brown of Crittenden, Ky. "When I would hear him sing, I'd go into like a trance and nothing else around me mattered." Pat Hillebrand of DuBois, Penn., said her graveside visit with friend Sandy Bartoletti of Saratoga Springs, N.Y., brought back memories of the Elvis concert they attended together in 1957 as 15-year-old schoolmates. "We rubbed our hands on the stage and I didn't wash my hands for a week," Hillebrand said. "I had gum that I chewed in the air where he breathed and I kept it for like 15 years." Dozens of large floral displays sent by fans from around the world surrounded a walkway leading to the garden. Teddy bears, single red roses and other small offerings covered the grave. Presley, who died at Graceland on Aug. 16, 1977, is buried in a small garden beside the famous white-columned house. Graceland was also swarmed Wednesday by fans who turned out for the annual overnight "candlelight vigil" to the garden. Waiting for it to start, many sat or stood for hours in temperatures that hit 106 degrees. By the time it began at 9:30 p.m. EST, a tightly packed crowd stretched almost a quarter mile, filling all five lanes of Elvis Presley Boulevard in front of Graceland. By the time it finished, the overnight event drew what was estimated to be record numbers. "According to our guys who do special events, and they're experts at counting heads, their estimate is somewhere around 40,000," said police spokesman Vince Higgins. Jack Soden, chief executive of Elvis Presley Enterprises, the company that runs Graceland, said he was given a police estimate of 50,000 participants and considered that on the low side. "It was just amazing," Soden said. "Everything about this week has been bigger and stronger, with more people and more attendance everywhere." The graveside procession went on through the night and was still under way when regular Graceland tours were ready to begin at 8 a.m. Thursday, Soden said. "A lot of fans all over the world had anticipated this would be a big year," he said, "and that had a tendency to become a self-fulfilling prophecy." The city's Convention and Visitors Bureau predicted up to 75,000 visitors would be in Memphis for the anniversary this year. Almost 600,000 tourists visit Graceland each year, with a capacity attendance of more than 40,000 touring the residence during the anniversary week.
Source: Forbes / Updated: Aug 17, 2007 
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Reactions

Bill Rauhuff (profilecontact) wrote on Aug 20, 2007report abuse
Same here my first and last vigil. It was everything I thought it would be and more. Very beautiful and somber but the heat was a killer. 98 degrees at 7PM and 94 at 3AM when I left. My hats off to all the fans and fan clubs worldwide for making it so beautiful but at almost 53 yrs old once was enough especially with no bathroom facilities and the cattle like lines 4-5 deep at near the walls of Graceland. God Bless all of the fans I felt the love.
Tupelo (profilecontact) wrote on Aug 19, 2007report abuse
The Candlelight Vigil was beautiful and I was very happy to be there. And yes the heat was awfull.
Steve B. (profilecontact) wrote on Aug 19, 2007report abuse
What an AMAZING gathering in Memphis. The crowds were HUGE and THE CONCERT was the greatest thing ever. Now, the heat was another story!

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