TUPELO, Miss. (WCBI) — Thousands of people from around the country and world are in Tupelo for the annual festival honoring that city’s most famous native son.
But as WCBI’s Allie Martin reports, the original American Idol has a huge impact on the city throughout the entire year.
At the Fairpark Grill, while lunch is served, an Elvis-themed dessert is being made in the kitchen.
“One of our managers is putting together a banana pudding with a peanut butter sauce, then behind the bar we put together a peanut butter banana fluff martini,” explained Jennifer Sewell at the Fairpark Grill restaurant.
These special concoctions are available only during Elvis Fest, but the restaurant sees Elvis fans who make what is almost a pilgrimage year around.
“We get people from different countries, we get out of state people, really, from all walks of life; it’s exciting,” Sewell said.
Every year, more than 60,000 people go through the small, two-room house where Elvis was born. It’s a unique attraction that sets Tupelo apart from any other city.
“It’s important because of the economic reasons, brings a lot of people into Tupelo to stay in our hotels, eat in our restaurants, shop at all of our shops downtown and at the mall and midtown and it strengthens our bond and brand with Elvis Presley,” noted Neal McCoy of the Tupelo Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Another landmark on the Elvis tour that draws visitors year round is Tupelo Hardware. That’s the store where a young Elvis got his first guitar.
“Elvis makes Tupelo Hardware a unique business, we have lots of people who come from all over the world, everyday of the year to come to the store to see the counter where he bought his guitar with his mom,” explained George Booth II of Tupelo Hardware.
Booth points out his business is a hardware store, but he also knows that its spot in rock and roll history has a positive impact on the economy and he doesn’t see the fascination with Elvis going away anytime soon.
“The fans are not just the ones that were fans when Elvis was alive or when they were teenagers. The fans now are their children. I used to think it would kind of wear off after awhile, but I don’t think it is. It’s going to keep going.”
And that is music to the ears of the entire city.
Just this week, officials received bids for a multi-million dollar Elvis Presley Birthplace Trail. That will include roadway, drainage work, curb and sidewalks from Green Street to the singer’s birthplace.
Two bids were submitted today: Century Construction, $12,362,726.74; and Key LLC, $11,528,115.04.
The bids will be reviewed by the Major Thoroughfare Committee, the City Council and state Department of Transportation. It’ll likely be July before a decision is made.
Engineering Solutions Inc. of Tupelo is the designer.