PLANT CITY – Elvis may be long gone, but Vickie May is doing her best to keep his memory alive.
The fan club president has been busy recently organizing the 12th Elvis Tampa Bay Festival and Contest, which takes place July 19 at the Florida Strawberry Festival's expo hall.
The festival, from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., features everything Elvis, right down to a vendor selling peanut butter and banana sandwiches – one of Presley's favorite foods.
“It's all about Elvis and his music,” the 60-year-old May said.
Vendors will sell such memorabilia as Elvis-themed jewelry, dishes and other treasures, and there will be a silent auction. Author Bruce Portmann will be on hand with copies of his book “Elvis Presley: My Second Chance.”
But the festival revolves around tribute artists who represent Elvis at various stages in his career. The winner, selected by a panel of judges, advances to a national contest in Memphis, Tenn.
She hopes at least 500 fans are on hand for the competition, which she expects will attract up to 20 artists who look and sound like Presley.
Preliminary competition is from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., immediately followed by a parade of the Elvis performers and an Elvis-themed show based on “That's the Way it Is,” a 1970 documentary that included backstage and concert footage.
The six Elvis tribute artist finalists compete from 6 to 8 p.m., when a winner is crowned.
May and a longtime friend and fellow fan, Martha Taylor, have been busy distributing fliers and visiting other Elvis festivals to spread the word about the Plant City event.
May said she developed a love for Elvis' music because her mother, Mary Louise Morrison, was a fan. May took her enthusiasm to a new level a decade ago when she had the opportunity to meet some of the people who run Elvis Presley Enterprises in Memphis.
May formed the Tampa area Elvis Fan club in 2004. She took over the Elvis festival in 2007 and moved it to Plant City from Tampa in 2012 because it needed a larger venue.
She has four rooms of Elvis keepsakes at her Tampa home, which includes a silhouette of The King painted out front. One of her most cherished possessions is a music box she inherited after her mom died in 1986 that plays the Elvis hit, “Love Me Tender.”
She said Elvis fans enjoy a certain camaraderie and like to attend festivals such as the one she promotes. She said the legend of Elvis endures nearly 37 years after his death because of his unique voice and personality.
“There was just no one like Elvis,” she said. “There never has been anyone like Elvis and there never will be anyone like Elvis. He was just the total package.”