Every July since 1995, there has been a lot of “Burning Love” in Collingwood. This pretty Georgian Bay community is home to the world’s largest Elvis Presley Festival.
Most of the 30,000 fans who flock to this annual festival remember 78 and 45 rpm records, transistor radios and The Ed Sullivan Show. That’s not to say fans of heavy metal or punk won’t have a good time.
Last year, organizers introduced an inspiring artists’ competition called Live and Original. It is an opportunity for unknown artists to showcase their original music.
Families will enjoy the carnival at the waterfront, a classic car parade and lots of great shopping on the town’s beautiful heritage mainstreet.
And of course, there is Elvis morning, noon and night. The town’s main street, Hurontario, is closed Friday and Saturday for performances and the vendors’ walk. Fans can buy Elvis memorabilia, CDs and even paste-on sideburns. Tim Hortons sells Elvis cookies.
The place is crawling with Elvises. Or is it “Elvi” or “Elvēs?” More than 100 Elvis Tribute Artists (ETA) – don’t call them impersonators – perform during the festival. And while some are a little kitschy-looking in their wigs and tight jumpsuits, most ETAs are extremely talented singers. ETAs vary in age from young Elvis to jumpsuit Vegas Elvis. The Memphis-born singer died in August 1977 at the age of 42.
The street performances are free – bring your lawnchairs – while other events require tickets. Venues include the Gayety Theatre at 161 Hurontario, the Legion hall, the Blue Mountain Village and the Cranberry Resort. The competitions will take place at the Eddie Bush Arena, which is located at 96 Hurontario St. The grand finals will be held Sunday, July 24 at 4 pm at the arena. Restaurants also host their own special shows.
The Collingwood McDonald’s host performances after midnight on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Donations are collected to support Ronald McDonald House. Sunday morning there are several venues featuring gospel music performed by ETAs. (Elvis recorded many gospel songs and his Amazing Grace CD features 55 songs.)
The King had no less than 149 songs on the American music charts: 114 were in the Top 40, 40 were in the Top 10, and 18 went to number one. Elvis Radio on SiriusXM has a library of 3,000 song versions, so ETAs have a lot of material to work with.
Visitors will hear renditions of Don’t Be Cruel, Burning Love, Blue Suede Shoes and Suspicious Minds to be sure. But the serious ETAs such as Britain’s Pete Storm, (top photo) specialize in Elvis’s cover songs such as Fever, Bridge Over Troubled Waters and Polk Salad Annie.
The 2016 Collingwood Elvis Festival will take place from Wednesday, July 20 to Sunday, July 24. Information and the performance schedule are available on the Elvis Presley Festival website. If you plan on going, make hotel reservations early to avoid disappointment. Most hotels in Collingwood and surrounding area require a two-night booking during the festival.