Hail to 20 years of the King in Portage

2012-10-12T00:00:00Z Hail to 20 years of the King in PortageEloise Marie Valadez Eloise.Valadez@nwi.com, (219) 933-3365 nwitimes.com

Memphis won't be Elvis headquarters this weekend.

Elvis fans will want to congregate in Northwest Indiana for the 20th anniversary of the Elvis Fantasy Fest today through Sunday at Woodland Park in Portage.

"It's kind of amazing, isn't it, that it's 20 years," said Kay Lipps, chairwoman and coordinator of the event. Lipps, a longtime Elvis fan from Carmel, Ind., said the fest got its start two decades ago when the director of the local tourism board was searching for something fun and interesting to bring to Portage.

Lipps said with the Popcorn Fest in Valparaiso and Oz Fest in Chesterton, the King seemed to be the perfect subject for a Portage celebration.

She said more than 1,000 people annually show up for the weekend festival.

"And Saturday is usually our biggest day," Lipps said.

During the Fantasy Fest, attendees will get a dose of everything Elvis as tribute artists perform, vendors sells Presley-themed memorabilia, special guests take the stage and fans meet to pay homage to the King's memory.

This year, special guests Dick Grob and Sam Thompson, former members of Elvis' security staff, will be in the house.

"They'll do a Q & A on Saturday, but they'll be in attendance the whole weekend," she said.

Highlights will also include an Elvis game, similar to Bingo, a rock ’n’ roll Legends show and dinner tonight and a sock hop on Saturday and Sunday.

Lipps said tonight's dinner will be prepared by the parents of Special Olympians. The fest has long been a fundraiser for Special Olympics, with some proceeds going to Memphis charities in the event's first couple of years.

Each year guests at the fest are treated to watching an Elvis tribute artist contest, which is a qualifying competition for the annual Ultimate Tribute Artist Contest held in Memphis.

Among performers on the roster will be Rick Saucedo, Stephen Kabakos, Robert Washington, Quentin Flagg, Irv Cass, and Doug Church. The artists will also perform in the roles of other music stars such as Johnny Cash, Tom Jones, Buddy Holly, Richie Valens and Jerry Lee Lewis.

For Lipps and other mega Elvis fans, interest in the King never wanes.

"Elvis was and still is a cultural icon and he's loved by so many people," she said.

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