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Last Updated: Thursday, 16 August 2007, 21:09 GMT 22:09 UK
Fan vigil marks Elvis anniversary
Elvis Presley
Fans paid tribute to "The King" at his graveside in Memphis

Thousands of fans have marked the 30th anniversary of Elvis Presley's death with a candlelight vigil at the singer's Memphis home, Graceland.

Visitors finally finished filing past his grave at about 0730 local time, eleven hours after the gates opened.

"The King" died of a heart attack on 16 August 1977, aged 42.

Ex-wife Priscilla Presley said Elvis was still a powerful figure. "To see the fans from all over the world... it's mind-boggling," she said.

The vigil will be followed by a tribute concert featuring video footage of Elvis.

The footage will be accompanied by a live performance featuring former band members and backing singers.

I love Elvis - he's the love of my life. I can't explain it, it's just something about him
Debbie Quinn-Booth
British Elvis fan
An estimated 75,000 fans from around the world have travelled to Memphis - where temperatures have topped 100F (38C) - to attend events celebrating the superstar's life and music.

The soaring temperatures contributed to the deaths of three people in Memphis, officials said.

Paramedics have treated several fans for heat exhaustion and ambulances are on standby.

"It's official - this is the biggest Elvis week and the biggest candlelight vigil ever," said Tom Morgan, executive director of Elvis Presley Enterprises, as he opened the ceremony on Wednesday.

Elvis Presley's grave
Fans left gifts and flowers for their musical hero

Those taking part in the vigil queued for hours outside the gates, to carry candles up the mansion's long driveway to the singer's grave beside the house.

Many fans carried stuffed animals, flowers and other small gifts to leave beside the grave.

One visitor, Lynn Russert, said: "I think about him every night and I think about him every day, and talk to him every day."

Carol Norman said she saved up all year so she could attend the vigil at Graceland.

"I'm married and have children but my husband just thinks that it's a really nice thing to do because we're paying back what he gave us, and that's all we can do," she said.

Thousands of British fans flew in for the anniversary. Debbie Quinn-Booth was one of them. "I love Elvis," she said.

"He's my hero. He's the love of my life. I can't explain it, it's just something about him," she said.

Impersonators' contest

The vigil is an annual event that began as an impromptu gathering on the first anniversary of Elvis' death.

Over the years, a week of memorial events has been established around the anniversary.

On Thursday, the anniversary of his death, Elvis' childhood friend George Klein will host a memorial service at the University of Memphis.

Shirley Roberts from Tennessee sits among her Elvis paraphernalia as she waits to attend the candlelight vigil at Graceland
Fans began lining up for the candlelit vigil early on Wednesday
The tribute concert will be followed by a second concert, Elvis in Vegas, which takes place at midnight.

Friday will see the final of the first officially-endorsed tribute artist contest, featuring 10 of the best Elvis impersonators from around the globe.

The winner gets $5,000 (2,500) in cash and another $5,000 to spend at Graceland.

Graceland, where Elvis died as a result of heart disease exacerbated by drug abuse, is now a major tourist attraction visited by almost 600,000 people every year.

Presley was the second-highest earning dead celebrity in 2006, behind Nirvana's Kurt Cobain, according to Forbes magazine.

Music lovers come to pay their respects to the man who is credited by many with changing the face of popular music in the 1950s, when he fused country and blues to create rock 'n' roll.


VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
Elvis impersonators celebrate their idol in Memphis



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