First-time festival-goers Emily Dowswell and Daniel Randall are fulfilling a long-held ambition. (ABC Radio Sydney: Luke Wong)
It’s that time of year when Sydney’s Central railway station turns into a sweaty sea of black sideburn wigs and tight jumpsuits.
It’s all for the departure of the hundreds of music lovers making their way to the annual Parkes Elvis Festival.
For first-time attendee Daniel Randall of Newcastle, travelling to Australia’s biggest event honouring the king of rock ‘n’ roll had been something he’d looked forward to for a long time.
“I grew up on [Elvis’s music] with my mother and it’s been a part of my life,” he said.
“Non-stop when she’s cleaning the house she’s always listening to Elvis.
“She’s never been to this so I’m trying to do her proud.”
Accompanied by his partner Emily Dowswell, the couple had been listening to Elvis’s songs in preparation for the five-day event that includes musical performances by hundreds of look-alikes.
“Dan likes to serenade me with a few Elvis songs as well,” Ms Dowswell said.
Elvis impersonator John Collins boards the Elvis Express bounds for Parkes. (ABC Radio Sydney: Luke Wong)
This year’s festival theme is Elvis’s 1968 Comeback Special, with spectators and performers travelling from all over the world to celebrate the life of the music legend.
Elvis enthusiast Uki Maeda and her three friends travelled from Osaka in Japan to attend.
They each wore matching karate suits emblazoned with the letters EP on their backs, celebrating Elvis’s practice of martial arts which he often performed on stage.
“My Australian friends tell me about this party, it’s so crazy and fantastic, so I want to go,” Ms Maeda said.
There was an exciting and hectic atmosphere on the station’s main concourse. (ABC Radio Sydney: Luke Wong)
It was a much shorter journey for Sydney resident Linda Connell who turned up in a striking black and red Vegas showgirl-styled dress for what will be her fifth festival.
“The first time I came I didn’t come in costume, I came to photograph people and thought, ‘Bugger this, I’m going to join everybody and dress up’,” she said.
For her, the large crowds of onlookers and hectic atmosphere on the station’s main concourse was an exciting way to begin the journey.
“I love the commuters, their reaction as they’re going to work and they all stop dead in their tracks and go: ‘My God, what’s going on?'”
Demand for the six-hour trip on the Elvis Express was so high this year that a second train, the Blue Suede Express, was brought in to transport the hordes of fans to Parkes.
Elvis fans from Japan were among those to join Parkes Mayor Ken Keith on the journey. (ABC Radio Sydney: Luke Wong)
The Mayor of Parkes, Councillor Ken Keith, said the festival’s popularity not only benefitted his town of 11,000 people but also helped other nearby regional communities.
“It’s getting people from the city and around Australia to venture over those Blue Mountains and experience that country hospitality,” he told Simon Marnie on ABC Radio Sydney.
Cr Keith said Governor David Hurley would be unveiling a statue of Elvis as part of the town’s ceremonies.
Festival organisers estimated this year’s event would attract around 25,000 people, bringing an estimated $13 million to the local economy.
This group of friends from Lismore, dressed in 1950s-styled diner waitress uniforms, await the train trip to Parkes. (ABC Radio Sydney: Luke Wong)