Document Type

Journal Article


This paper discusses the annual Elvis Revival Festival in the small town of Parkes, 350 km to the west of Sydney, in rural Australia. It explores the way in which a remote place with few economic prospects has created a tourism product, and subsequently captured national publicity, through a festival based around commemoration of the birthday of Elvis Presley, a performer who had never visited Australia, and certainly not Parkes. The Festival began in the early 1990s, when a keen Elvis fan rallied promoters (and other fans) around the idea of bringing Elvis impersonators to the town for an annual celebration. Since then, the Festival has grown in size, with notable economic impact. The town now partly trades on its association with Elvis, constituting an 'invented' tradition and place identity. Yet the festival is not without tensions. The images of Elvis and the traditions generated by the festival challenge those who wish to promote Parkes through more austere, staid notions of place and identity. For some, Elvis is a means for the town to generate income and national notoriety, while others prefer less 'kitsch' tourism attractions such as a nearby (and nationally famous) radio telescope. Results from interviews with key players and surveys of visitors demonstrate how 'tradition' is constructed in places (rather than being innate), and how small places, even in remote areas, can develop economic activities through festivals, and create new identities - albeit contested ones.