As Elvis Presley fans around the world celebrated the life of The King this weekend on the 43rd anniversary of his Aug. 16, 1977 death, hundreds of Elvis enthusiasts flocked to his Graceland estate in Memphis, Tennessee for a candlelight vigil. Things looked a little different this Elvis Week, as the coronavirus pandemic required organizers to institute a number of safety regulations to allow people to pay their respects while maintaining masking and social distancing guidelines.
The event was ticketed this year, allowing only 720 people onto the grounds for an up-close view of the musician's gravesite, where people left notes and flowers, according to the Memphis Commercial Appeal. Only parties of less than six people wearing face coverings were allowed to enter the grounds, and the entrance times were staggered to allow proper social distancing.
The global health crisis kept people away who typically would travel long distances to Graceland to honor Elvis, with Mary Clark, a member of Austin, Texas-based Elvis Country Fan Club telling the Commercial Appeal, "We're here for all the people who can't be here." Carol Ikami added to the outlet that she was sad her friends from around the world would not be able to commemorate Elvis Week with them: "I miss all the friends we have from around the world, from the UK, Brazil, Japan, Germany, that we only see once a year during Elvis Week.
Angie Marchese, Graceland's vice president for archives and exhibits, added to the Commercial Appeal that while Elvis Week looked a lot different this year than ever before, it was worth the extra effort to honor the icon. "It's very important that we held this event, and made sure that it would be a safe event, because this is what Elvis Week is all about," she said.
For people looking to celebrate Elvis online, The Ed Sullivan Show's YouTube channel aired a special broadcast of his performances on the late night show. "Appearing on The Ed Sullivan Show meant everything to Elvis," said his lifelong friend, associate, and colleague Jerry Schilling told Andrew Solt earlier this month. "At the end of his third appearance when Ed Sullivan goes over to Elvis and says, 'I wanted to say to Elvis Presley and the country that this is a real decent, fine boy. We have never had a pleasanter experience on our show with a big name than we had with you; you're thoroughly alright. Let's have a tremendous hand for a very nice person.' When you look into Elvis's eyes at that moment, you knew he felt accepted and sincerely proud. Ed had given him that endorsement."