Michigan ElvisFest 2012, which was held July 13-14 in Ypsilanti’s Riverside Park, featured live musical performances by 11 award winning Elvis tribute artists, Elvis memorabilia, a classic car show and a trip for two to Graceland was raffled off with the proceeds going to the Ypsilanti Meals on Wheels program.
The festival began in Ypsilanti in 2000 and is the largest tribute concert in North America. The two-day concert is not a look-alike contest, but an event where Elvis fans can gather to enjoy music by the former king of rock ’n’ roll.
One of Michigan ElvisFest’s original co-founders and Elvis tribute artist Matt King, from Detroit, Mich., performed both days of the event and has been headlining public and private events since age 14.
When asked how he became a tribute artist, he said he dressed as Elvis for a Halloween dance where there was karaoke and people told him he looked and sounded like Elvis.
“They said, ‘You ever thought about being an Elvis impersonator?’ and I said, ‘What? What’s an Elvis impersonator?’” King said. “So I started researching it and I saw that people made livings at it and stuff, so I started doing contests … and from there it just snowballed into doing full time.”
King said he felt good about his performance and thinks the crowd had a good time.
“It was good. I thought it was good. It was warm up there to say the least. It was hot, but I enjoyed it,” he said.
Eastern Michigan University’s Director of Media Relations Pamela Young was in attendance Friday, along with co-worker Media Relations Administrator Debra Johnson and Michael Andalaro, a graphic artist for EMU’s alumnus magazine The Edge.
“I dragged my friends out, and one has not been here before and the other one came a couple of years ago, and we’re having a ball,” Young said. “We [saw] a lot of EMU people and we had dinner at the Sidetrack [Bar and Grill], and we’re just ready for some good music. This is probably one of … my favorite events.”
“It’s the only place where you can find even Elvis glasses with sideburns on it and everything,” she said.
Young said she has liked Elvis since she was a kid and has even been to Graceland, but doesn’t consider herself a “raving” fan.
“I like the music. I thought he was a great musician,” she said.
Elvis tribute artist Chris Ayotte, a University of Michigan alumnus who grew up in Detroit, said he has always admired Elvis for his voice and his ability to inspire others through his music.
Ayotte said this was his ninth year performing at Michigan ElvisFest, but he has only been performing in earnest for the past six years.
“I’m very fortunate, because this is by invite only every year, that they would have me back,” he said.
Ayotte said when he and his brother were kids they took to mimicking the voices of U.S. presidents, singers and celebrities.
“For us it was about a compliment of a lot of different voice, but singing and hearing Elvis was something we just really tuned into. So it was a childhood love that turned into some sort of a singers dream,” he said.
Ayotte said he thought his performance went well and the crowd was receptive, but it was hard to perform outside in the heat wearing black leather pants and jacket.
Ayotte said he has a full-time corporate job, but enjoys performing on the side as a hobby.
“Thank god for the fans who still love Elvis, it makes our jobs cake,” he said.
Related material: Michigan ElvisFest photo gallery