Can’t Help Falling In Love With Parkes: How One Long Weekend & Hundreds Of Elvis Impersonators Put A Regional NSW Town On The Map

Can’t Help Falling In Love With Parkes: How One Long Weekend & Hundreds Of Elvis Impersonators Put A Regional NSW Town On The Map

Thirty-one years after the first Elvis Festival attracted just 195 local attendees, Parkes is anticipated to come alive again for the 2024 festival. What started as a family dream and a cute name for a regional restaurant has become one of the most significant cultural events on the calendar, amplifying a regional NSW town on the world stage.

Today, the festival has the town of Parkes all shook up, delivering a masterclass in successful marketing and attracting upwards of 25,000 guests, all paying homage to the late king of rock and roll, along with a worldwide media audience of 599 million fans across the globe. 

“Like all good stories – The Parkes Elvis Festival started over a bottle of vino back in 1992 with founders Bob and Anne Steel, along with some friends, dreaming up the idea for a night of celebrating all things Elvis. In its first year, 200 fans showed up, and throughout the past thirty years, the festival has grown exponentially. Originally taking place over one weekend, the Elvis Festival is now a five-day experience that sees the whole town convert into a festival playground,” said Joel Ulbricht, Parkes Elvis festival producer.

Since its inception, the Elvis Festival has put the town of Parkes on the map, with thousands of tourists flocking to the destination every year. “If you look back at the last thirty years of Parkes Elvis Festival, this has become an event that brings thousands of visitors to the Central West in the middle of January. Instead of escaping to the seaside, tourists migrate on mass to celebrate and experience the magic of all things Elvis,” said Ulbricht.

With guests arriving in style from the big city via NSW TrainLink’s Elvis Express and the Rex Hound Dog Express, the festival is all action, a showcase of all the town has to offer. “Parkes Elvis Festival showcases over thirty venues, clubs, bars, restaurants, and outdoor spaces that become live venues. In 2023, over one hundred and fifty shows and experiences will be produced from Wednesday, 10 January to Sunday, 14 January,” said Ulbricht.

Mayor Ken Keith at NSW Trainlink Elvis Express Departure

The result is off the charts for a town with a population of just over fifteen thousand. With twenty-five thousand visitors descending onto the town, there is a significant increase in the local economy. Latest figures report an over 13 million dollar injection into the community in just the first few weeks of January. 

“The increase in spending plays a significant role in what has traditionally been a very low season – not just for Parkes but also the neighbouring townships of Forbes, Orange, and Dubbo,” said Ulbricht.

A massive source of support for the festival and overall revenue for the town as a whole comes from sponsorship and advertising, with support coming from both local businesses and major national and international travel organisations. The festival is already in talks to secure partnerships that support entertainment, family, and brands that want to showcase tourism and travel ahead of their 2025 festival. 

“Sponsorship and advertising play a critical role for the Parkes Elvis Festival. The rising costs of supply, production, artists, entertainment, and overall event expenditure means the team are continually focusing on partnerships, sponsorship and advertising to help offset the costs,” said Ulbricht.

So don’t board the conspiracy train if you see a troupe of Elvis’s making their way through Central Station early next year. Elvis has most certainly left the building, but his loyal fans have definitely not! The 2024 Parkes Elvis Festival’s theme is a tribute to the late stars Jailhouse Rock and will run from 10th – 14th January in Parkes, NSW.




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