Paul Ellis

Paul Ellis, professionally known as the “Forever” Elvis, performs Friday afternoon at the Penticton Elvis Festival in Gyro Park. Ellis has been an Elvis tribute artist since 2004, performing in festivals since 2005.

Everybody, let’s rock.

Elvis Presley tribute artists and fans of the King of Rock ’n’ Roll have gathered in Penticton for the 18th annual Penticton Elvis Festival, which began Friday at Gyro Park.

Paul Ellis, known as the “Forever” Elvis, grew up on Presley’s music.

“He’s an icon of mine,” said Ellis. “I pursued it because I have a musical family, and they listened to Elvis back in the day.”

Presley’s flashy outfits, especially his gold shoes, jacket and pants, were what caught Ellis’s eye as a child.

“I started singing when I was five years old, in front of the mirror,” he said.

With a hairbrush in his hand, Ellis would pretend he was Elvis and curl his lip, citing the classic, “Thank you, thank you very much” line.

Now, he spends about an hour each day practising and listens to Elvis in his car.

“I enjoy doing it, and if it wasn’t for the King of Rock ’n’ Roll, Elvis Presley, I would not be here today, so thank you, Elvis!” he said.

Ellis, who is from Abbotsford, won’t be competing this year, but will take the stage during intermissions.

He took home the non-pro title in 2010 and typically competes in the professional division.

He’s someone Jackie Kendall has seen evolve over the years. She has attended all 18 years of the Elvis festival, never missing one.

“I grew up on Elvis,” she said as Ellis sang his last song on stage. “I was crazy about him!”

Her mother, she said, at one point sang backup for Elvis.

“She shared so many, so many stories about him — about how kind he was, how generous he was, but how exact he was in his music.”

She loves attending the festival for the memories and says she’s always impressed by the festival.

The competition this year features 15 non-pros and 13 pros, and it’s the first year — to Penticton Elvis Festival Society president Dave Martin’s knowledge — to feature past performers as MCs.

The festival is being presented in Gyro Park this year rather than in its usual spot at Okanagan Lake Park.

“We ran into the (Peach City Beach Cruise), so we moved over to Okanagan Lake Park,” Martin explained. “It worked fine for all these years . . . but then the Ribfest (also on this weekend) came to town. We didn’t have to move, but to be fair to everybody . . . we decided to move over to here for this year.”

Sunday morning’s gospel show — with $2 admission and proceeds being donated to the Moog Hospice House — is the festival’s busiest day each year.

“Elvis so loved gospel, and so many of his fans carry that on,” Martin said.

The Penticton Elvis Festival runs until Sunday, with semifinals at Gyro Park and finals taking place at the Penticton Trade and Convention Centre.

For more information and tickets, visit pentictonelvisfestival.ca.

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