The back of their shirts had a quote that gives one reason why fans have made repeated trips to Memphis for Elvis Week and the vigil: “If you have a friend who is an Elvis fan, you have a friend for life.”
“Where else can you go where you meet people from year to year who have the same passion?” said Christine Jeffords, a pre-school teacher from Hartford, Wis.
Jeffords, 52, smiles when she talks about buying her first Presley 45, “Let Yourself Go,” which she bought as a young teen with money she had saved from babysitting jobs. She said the vigil is a way to remember not only his career, but also his giving personality and ability to make people happy with his music.
“If you were sad or happy or whatever, he was such a big part of your life,” Jeffords said. “I always felt in my heart that he was a good person, a beautiful person.”
The vigil started as an informal gathering the year after his death. It has blossomed into a major tourist event. Fans begin lining up along the outer wall of Graceland about 12 hours before the vigil, and many will stay until the early morning hours of the next day.
The event also has become an international affair and a tribute to the Tupelo, Miss., native’s worldwide popularity, hosting fans from Australia, Brazil, England and Japan and other foreign countries.
Miguel Salinas Caceres, 53, came with other members of a fan club whose members are from Chile. Making his first visit to Graceland, Salinas Caceres recalled making scrapbooks of newspaper article clippings about Presley when he was a teen.
The articles and scrapbooks were a way he and his family followed and learned about Presley because they could not afford a record player or even the records themselves. He said his family used to pay a neighbor who owned a television so that they could watch Presley movies and other TV programs at the neighbors’ house.