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|BUILDING ON ELVIS FOR PROSPERITY
March 06, 2016 - DJournal / Elvis Express Radio
Tupelo’s intentional development of the Elvis Presley birthplace neighborhood as a serious tourism attraction took a long time, but the foundation that runs the birthplace site with a
museum, chapel, reception rooms, catering kitchen and other amenities has made great strides in raising its tourist visibility.
Two phases of expansion, construction and improvements have provided a measure of glitz and glamour befitting the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll, Tupelo’s most famous native son.
Phase 3, under development now, will add even more amenities to enhance the aura, history and identity of the world-renowned entertainer born and reared until early adolescence
in East Tupelo.
Statues of a young Elvis and a story wall came with Phase II, which will consist of draining an existing lake on the property, landscaping the refurbished lake and eventually making it
a fishing spot for children.
A picnic pavilion also will be erected and access ramps constructed.
A waterfall will add atmosphere and fountains will pour water into the lake. New walking paths an trails will add accessibility for all visitors.
The state has provided $1 million for Phase III. Reps. Steve Holland and Randy Boyd helped secure approval for the funds.
More attractions at the birthplace, explained executive director Dick Guyton, powers a magnet holding people in Tupelo longer to eat meals, buy tickets, purchase souvenirs and
visit nearby retail shopping attractions, including Tupelo Hardware in the downtown area, the store where Elvis bought his first guitar.
Guyton, a veteran in his position, said enhanced attractions also bring more motor coaches, the big buses that carry about 45 passengers on their multi-day excursions to places
like Tupelo and the birthplace. Each coach, he said, generates about $600 in ticket sales, plus $1,500 in gift sales.
Guyton said fans often time visits every five years to coincide with important anniversaries of the singer’s birth and death.
Although visitors started trekking to the birthplace house soon after Presley rose to fame and increased after his death, the enhancement of the whole property has made a trickle
into a steady flow.
The birthplace lacks the physical stature of Graceland, Presley’s home in south Memphis, but nothing matches the birthplace and the neighborhood where Presley enjoyed friends,
family and church.
Other influences on Elvis include black bluesmen in the neighborhood and country music radio programs enjoyed by his family.
Elvis’ parents of 1946 purchasing his first guitar that set Presley down the path to change American culture forever.
Late 1948 Elvis and his parents packed their belongings in a trunk strapped to the roof of their 1939 Plymouth and moved to Memphis in search of a better life.
The rest of the story unfolded from the mid-1950s until Presley’s untimely death in 1977.
The birthplace captures those vital formative years and experiences.