A Festival Fit for a King

IMG_3812Last weekend, in my hometown of Tupelo, we celebrated our favorite native son with the annual Tupelo Elvis Festival. Held the first full weekend in June, the festival celebrates the impact Elvis Presley made, and continues to make, on music worldwide.

Whether you’re a die-hard Elvis fan, a lover of music, have a pet who has an uncanny resemblance to the King of Rock ‘N’ Roll, or are just looking for something a little different to do, everyone can find something to enjoy during the festival. One of my favorite parts of the weekend is the annual Running With the King 5K that is put on by the Tupelo Running Club.

I signed up for this race by myself and tried to persuade a friend or two to join me, but to no avail. I’ll admit, Saturday morning when my alarm went off, the last thing I wanted to do was get up and run. Since I had already registered, I drug myself out of bed, put on my running clothes, and drove to Veterans Park for the start. It was hot…and muggy. Thankfully the sun was hidden behind some pretty thick clouds or it would have been a miserable experience.

The race winds through Tupelo’s Veterans Park which is located in Elvis’ neck of the IMG_3777woods in East Tupelo. After running past the Tupelo Aquatic Center and down the American flag-lined Lawrence Stanley Memorial Drive, we made our way onto Elvis Presley Drive, past Elvis’ house, and through his neighborhood that was once lined with sharecropper shacks. The final mile took us along Veterans Park’s winding, tree-lined trail and ultimately to the finish by the park’s softball complex, where an Elvis impersonator was waiting to serenade us with the King’s greatest hits.

I ran a good race, not a PR, but about a minute under last year’s pace. We had a wild Saturday last weekend, so I didn’t have time to stick around to hear the winners announced, and they still haven’t posted the results, so I’m not completely positive what my exact IMG_3779time was, only what my Garmin showed at the end.

I bought new running shoes last week, so this was the final voyage for the dreaded purple Asics. I am once again in my happy place with the newest Mizuno Wave Riders thanks to my friends at Trails and Treads in Tupelo. I began breaking those bad boys in this week and have learned my lesson about steering away from what works.

I’ve shared before about the Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Competition that’s held each August in Memphis during Elvis Week. Tupelo has its own competition during the Tupelo Elvis Festival that sends a winner to represent our town during the festivities in Memphis.

In between competition rounds, some of the top tribute artists in the world perform concerts at the BancorpSouth Arena, showcasing Elvis and the various eras in which he performed. Right when I think I know a little something about Elvis, I attend another show and realize that I still have a lot to learn. From the “outfit,” to the movement, to the hair, the tribute artists have to know it all, because the King of Rock ‘N’ Roll’s fans absolutely IMG_3772know. I got to see a few of my favorites perform Thursday night, including 2014 Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Competition winner Jay Dupuis (pictured), which made for a great start to the festival.

On the Fairpark side, this year’s  festival was headlined by American Idol winner, Trent Harmon. We knew it would draw a big crowd, but no one could have predicted that the crowd would show up, leave due to inclement weather, and then come back in full force to hear this hometown boy play. Elvis Presley, Mac McAnally, and Paul Thorn were all born in the Mississippi Hills and it will be exciting to see what’s to come from the newest generation of Tupelo’s musical talent.

Another Tupelo Elvis Festival has come and gone. The Downtown Tupelo Main Street Association and its many volutneers that make up the “Blue Team,” are the ones that make this great event happen, and they do a fantastic job. I always look forward to the festival because I get to run, I get to hear great live music, and I get to learn something new about my city’s most famour former resident. Plus, a little black leather and powder blue never hurt anyone, right?

2016 Miles to Go:  859