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Last Updated: Thursday, 16 August 2007, 10:27 GMT 11:27 UK
Elvis devotees light up Graceland
By Betty Redondo
BBC News entertainment reporter, Memphis, Tennessee

Elvis Presley fan at Graceland
Fans have been waiting in line to pay their respects to Elvis
Everywhere you go at Graceland, there is the glow of candlelight, as Elvis Presley fans mark 30 years since the singer died.

Some 75,000 people have taken over Elvis Presley Boulevard, which is a six-lane highway, waiting to enter Graceland and file past the late star's grave.

It's an amazing sight. People are camping out on the boulevard. They've got their picnic hampers, tables and chairs, bottles of beer, and a lot of them have bought their own home-made pictures of Elvis, as well as floral tributes.

And they've brought little tea lights, spelling out "Elvis". It's the glow of candlelight which is the most special thing. It's very surreal to see this busy boulevard taken over by so many Elvis fans.

There is a really happy atmosphere. People know they're going to have to queue for hours, but nobody seems to be bothered. They are hanging out with other Elvis fans and having a good time, while his music plays all the time in the background.

Tea lights
Tea lights have been glowing all night at Graceland
Everywhere you turn there are Elvis impersonators, in their jumpsuits and sporting sideburns.

Other fans are stopping and asking to have their photographs taken with them - "Mr Elvis, can I have my photo taken with you?"

The first fans went through the gates at about 2030 local time (0230 BST) and it will take until 0500 or 0600 (1100 or 1200 BST) for all the fans to go through - they say everyone who turns up will get the chance to look at the burial site.

The fans move along in single file, all holding a candle - it's the only time fans are allowed to walk up to the Graceland mansion. If you go on a tour, they bring you up on a shuttle bus.

Seasoned pros

The opening ceremony was cut short as it is the middle of a massive heatwave and the organisers were concerned about people queuing.

Some of the fans have been many times before - seasoned pros who have come every year for 10 or 15 years.

For many it's the first time. One British fan I spoke to is only 29, so wasn't even born when Elvis died.

Elvis fans from England
Fans have travelled to Tennessee from all around the world
I asked him why he became a fan, and he said he heard Elvis on the radio one day and it completely grabbed his heart, so he started listening to his music and became hooked.

He's not a stereotypical "anorak" - he's a successful guy who runs his own business. But he just loves Elvis. He's had a fantastic time.

He got very emotional on the tour of Graceland, feeling the presence of Elvis in every single room.

There is a huge British contingent, there must be five or six companies bringing coach loads here. The Brits must be the biggest contingent by far. I think that's always been the case, they've always been among the most fanatical fans.

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