I posted this in September of last year. I thought it would be a good start to get the conversation rolling again; being as this tacky festival is about to kick off again.
I always judge the importance of something or someone in popular culture by whether it has its own Wikipedia page. The Collingwood Elvis Festival does not. It has a one line entry in the actual Collingwood, Ontario page but that’s it. So this festival that is so important to this towns identity, it’s such a draw, it brings so much worldwide attention to our towns tourist industry, doesn’t even get its own Wikipedia page. In fact take a look at this:
That is the Wikipedia entry on Elvis Impersonators. Did you see it? Did you see a few lines about the “World’s biggest Elvis festival in Collingwood, Ontario”? No neither did I. Because in the whole world scheme of all things Elvis, Collingwood isn’t even on the radar.
How much money did we send off to Elvis Presley Enterprise’s after this year’s festival? Seriously I’m asking, if someone knows let me know. EPE is the money making venture that now handles everything Elvis. Nothing Elvis in the world gets done without handing a piece of the action to this company. Here’s a thought, being as our town is shamelessly promoting this American icon of popular culture, every July for 20 years. How about EPE kicking back some money into the kitty to keep this thing viable?
One thing that I have always wondered is WHY??? Why do we celebrate Elvis Presley in Collingwood once a year? Was this a favorite vacation destination of the King back in the sixties relaxing with his entourage down at the Georgian Manor Resort? Did he have a friend or family member from this area? Did he write a song about this towns ship building heritage? Or did Elvis do an unknown Mountie movie in the area that I don’t know about? The answer to all this in an emphatic “NO”. In fact when the king was alive I bet he couldn’t have picked Collingwood or Ontario from a map of the world. So again WHY? There are so many other things that are relevant to our local history, culture, geography that we could celebrate in a festival; and yet we celebrate someone who in the end was grossly overweight through hedonistic self-indulgence and was so addicted to prescription and other drugs, he didn’t know what day it was. Not much of a roll model.
Thinking about it, I will answer the WHY for you myself. This started as a talent contest in 1994, during the early nineties recession. The town was still reeling from the shipyards closure 8 years previously and the development of Blue Mountain into a four season mega resort, was still 10 years away. The town needed something to boost the local economy and this seemed to fit the bill. So it was promoted and grew in leaps and bounds year after year until it has morphed into what we see today. But that was then this is now. We have plenty of things to draw people to our town, it has become a summer and winter playground for the large population bases south of us, we don’t need it anymore.
So again I say, have your festival by all means. I will put up with the road closures and the whole of downtown becoming a parking no go zone and delay doing my banking. I will put up with the droning (mostly) amateurish Elvis music ear worming its way into my consciousness for 72 hours a year. But stop picking my pockets to pay for it, make it pay for itself.