TUPELO, Miss. – On Thursday, August 9, 2012, Tupelo unveiled a larger-than-life statue to commemorate the 35th anniversary of Elvis’ death. Hundreds of fans gathered in the Tupelo Fairpark District, former site of the Tupelo fairgrounds where Elvis performed the famous homecoming concert in September of 1956, to see the statue unveiled. The statue was sculpted by Mississippian William Beckwith and is of the 1956 photograph shot in Tupelo by Roger Marshutz of Elvis reaching into the crowd. It is known by fans as “the hands.”
The unveiling was held as part of Tupelo’s free summer music concert series titled “Down on Main” and was part of a celebration of Mississippi artists. Mississippians Eden Brent and Marty Stuart headlined the show for the night. The Tupelo Unity Choir opened the night paying tribute to the gospel music Elvis loved and joined Eden Brent on the stage for a couple of songs with her.
In-between the performances of Eden Brent and Marty Stuart, the attention was thrown to a small stage positioned to the size of the statue. Mayor Jack Reed, Jr. welcomed the crowd and acted as the master of ceremonies for the night. Others that spoke about Elvis and Tupelo
included Mississippi Representative Steve Holland, Tupelo historian Roy Turner and Dave Irwin who read a proclamation from U.S. Congressman Alan Nunnelee. The crowd, pressing into the area barricaded with red velvet ropes, was then whipped into a frenzy with music from the popular Viva Elvis Cirque du Soleil show before the countdown began.
The statue was met with thunderous applause with many fans breaking into tears. The remainder of the night was spent in line waiting to get their picture made holding the hand of Elvis. Traffic at the statue has been steady since the unveiling and is anticipated to remain that way through the Elvis Week activities.
Of the statue, Neal McCoy, executive director of the Tupelo CVB commented, “The statue is more than just a piece of bronze erected in Elvis’ honor. It’s a constant reminder of how important Tupelo’s cultural influence was to him and how important he still is to Tupelo.”
Elvis Presley was born in Tupelo, Miss. on Jan. 8, 1935, where he grew up around his extended family. In the thirteen years that Elvis spent in Tupelo, he was exposed to many different kinds of music that played an important role throughout his career. He was exposed to gospel music in his childhood church, discovered the blues in the Shake Rag community and on “the Hill” where his family lived for a while and he listened to country shows on the radio with his family during this time.
For more information on Tupelo, visit www.tupelo.net.