$28.75 charge to visit Elvis’ grave during vigil upsets fans

The Associated Press

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — For nearly four decades, fans of the late singer Elvis Presley have made a solemn procession past his grave at his Graceland mansion during the annual candlelight vigil commemorating his death, without paying a penny.

This year, on the 40th anniversary of the rock n’ roll icon’s death, it’s going to cost them $28.75.

Many fans are not happy.

Visitors who plan to attend the vigil beginning Tuesday night and running into Wednesday must have an Elvis Week Property Pass wristband to walk up the long driveway and past the graves where Presley and relatives are buried, Graceland told the Associated Press in a written statement. The $28.75 wristband also provides access to a new $45 million entertainment complex at the Memphis tourist attraction.

Graceland, operated by Elvis Presley Enterprises, says it anticipates large crowds and it has updated its security measures for Elvis Week, the annual celebration of Presley’s life and career in music and movies. Presley died on Aug. 16, 1977, in Memphis.

“In order to keep everyone safe and ensure an enjoyable and meaningful event for all, we have worked closely with local, state and federal security authorities to establish new procedures that have been widely used across the U.S.,” Graceland’s statement said.

A few Presley fans made a pilgrimage to Graceland the year he died, and they’ve continued coming ever since. Graceland says it averages 500,000 visitors per year from around the world, and attendance for this year’s vigil has been projected at 30,000 to 50,000.

The announcement surprised fans who didn’t know about the charge when they made plans to come to Elvis Week. Some reacted with angry messages on social media, saying they won’t attend another vigil.

Longtime fan Fred Schwarz of Springfield, Illinois, said Tuesday that he and his wife have been to several vigils and have enjoyed them. But not this year. He says fans should be insulted at the new charge.

“I looked forward to going down there this year, and they come up with all this,” Schwarz said. “I don’t want to even go to Memphis anymore. The people running that are not Elvis fans. They are in business. Corporations, they want the bottom line.”

Elvis Presley Enterprises was created by the Elvis Presley Trust to manage its assets, according to Graceland’s website. It was wholly owned by the Elvis Presley Trust and his daughter, Lisa Marie Presley, until 2005. Elvis Presley Enterprises is now majority-owned by Graceland Holdings, led by managing partner Joel Weinshanker. Lisa Marie Presley retains 15 percent ownership in the company.

The new entertainment complex is part of a $140 million expansion, which also includes a $90 million, 450-room hotel that opened last year. The complex, featuring exhibits of Presley’s cars, clothing and other personal items, replaces the aging buildings that housed the exhibits for years.

Access to restaurants, gift shops and an entertainment tent where people gathered before the vigil used to be free, though visitors still actually had to buy the food or memorabilia at the eateries and shops.

Now, access to them is included in the fee to enter the complex.

Cheryl Skogen, of Los Angeles, was third in line waiting on Tuesday morning for the vigil later that evening.

“I don’t think Elvis would like it if he knew the fans were charged to go up and see,” she said.

Some fans don’t have a problem with the charge. Joe Makowski, who saw Presley more than 80 times in concert and came to Graceland after Presley died in 1977, said it’s a good idea because of the cost of security. He also said these types of charges are seen at other tourist attractions.

“It goes along with the territory of the popularity of Elvis,” said Makowski, of St. Petersburg, Florida. “There’s a price for that as well, to accommodate all the people.”

News of the vigil charge also upset Anthony Stuchbury, of Bolton, England, who has been to Graceland more than two dozen times but did not come this year.

“I understand they are a business, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with them making money,” Stuchbury said. “But the current price-gouging situation has created so much friction, it’s even dividing fans.”””

Fans wait in line outside Graceland, Elvis Presley’s Memphis home, on Tuesday, Aug. 15, 2017, in Memphis, Tenn. Fans from around the world are at Graceland for the 40th anniversary of his death. Presley died Aug. 16, 1977.(AP Photo/Brandon Dill)

SportsPlus

Crime

7/1: Calcasieu Parish Sheriff announces arrest list

McNeese Sports

Southland welcomes two new members

Local News

Supreme Court rules ex-presidents have broad immunity, dimming chance of a pre-election Trump trial

Business

Names in the News: People shaping the future of Lake Area business

life

On Campus: SW La. students recognized for achievements

Local News

How will Louisiana’s new Ten Commandments classroom requirement be funded and enforced?

Local News

Biden meets with his family amid pressures to step down after debate

Local News

Donation celebrated by Second Harvest, but volunteers are still needed

Local News

Grand Avenue Gym: DeQuincy landmark fading fast, group fighting to save it says

Local News

Beryl becomes major hurricane forecast to bring life-threatening conditions to Caribbean

life

Fourth of July festivities in Jennings will kick off with Stars and Stripes Festival

Local News

Ceremony held at Fort Johnson for deploying troops

Jim Beam

Jim Beam column:Don’t expect new candidates

life

SW La. nightlife calendar: There’s always something to do

life

USAF Band of the West making Lake Charles stop

high-school Sports

Upgrades planned for Jerry Simmons football stadium in Jennings

Crime

Lafayette teen charged in Ernest Street fatal shooting

Crime

6/28: Calcasieu Parish Sheriff announces arrest list

Local News

Longhorns make quite a statement to the SEC

Local News

Bicyclist fatally struck after allegedly running stop sign

Local News

PHOTO GALLERY: Stitch Guillory sworn in as sheriff

Local News

Sheriff Guillory: ‘I am living MLK’s dream’

Local News

Supreme Court allows cities to enforce bans on homeless people sleeping outside

Local News

Work begins on new artificial reef off Cameron coast to provide habitat