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A wall of Elvis impersonators was a highlight of last year's first NC Tribute Festival to the King in Lexington's Civic Center.

Lexington about to get all shook up

LEXINGTON – After a successful debut last year, the NC Tribute Festival to the King returns to Lexington, April 28-30.


More than 20 Elvis tribute artists take part in the three-day weekend filled with concerts, competitions, meet-and-greets, and after parties.


On his rise to becoming the King of Rock ’n’ Roll, Elvis Presley played a sold-out show at the Lexington YMCA in 1956. Elvis wasn’t scheduled to play in Lexington, but he filled in for an ailing Eddy Arnold. That fateful event forever tied the small town known for its pork barbecue to one of the most famous performers of all time. Several tribute shows took place in Lexington before the town established a full-fledged multiday festival last year.


“When Elvis performed in 1956 at the YMCA, he was just getting started, and many attendees didn’t know who he was just yet,” says Morgan Brinkle with Visit Lexington. “Elvis coming to town ended up being the event of the century. He was in town for a couple of days and walked our streets. To be able to bring that back to life in Lexington is really neat.”


Four professional headliners will perform three shows. Friday’s show, “Rise of the King,” features Elvis’ greatest hits. On Saturday, “Reflections of the King” focuses on Elvis’ hits from 1968 and 1970. Then on Sunday afternoon, “The King’s Gospel Celebration” showcases Elvis’ gospel songs.


In addition to the headliner shows, 17 up-and-coming Elvis tribute artists compete for prize money and a chance to advance to the Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Contest in Memphis, Tennessee. The first two rounds of competition are Friday and Saturday at 11 a.m., and the final round is Sunday at 2 p.m. 


“We set up the event so people can enjoy the ‘King’ and Lexington,” Brinkle says. “They have time in between shows to get out and explore uptown and all the shops and restaurants in walking distance of the theater. Hopefully they get a taste and want to come back.”


Austin Irby, who has been named one of the world’s Top 10 Elvis tribute artists, performed at last year’s event and looks forward to making another appearance this year.


“Lexington takes you in with open arms,” Irby says. “Last year, we had full houses that were energetic and electrifying. They inspired us to put more energy into our shows.”


Single-day tickets are available as well as all-access passes, which include admission to all competitions and headliner concerts, and exclusive access to meet-and-greet experiences and after parties. Performances take place at Edward C. Smith Civic Center. To see a full schedule, purchase tickets and explore lodging options, go to www.NCTributeFestivaltotheKing.com or call (336) 236-4218.