For nearly four decades, fans of the late singer Elvis Presley have made a solemn procession past his grave at his Graceland mansion during the annual candlelight vigil commemorating his death, without paying a penny.
This year, on the 40th anniversary of the rock n’ roll singer’s death, it’s going to cost them $US28.75 ($39.75).
Many fans are not happy.
Visitors who plan to attend the vigil must have an Elvis Week Property Pass wristband to walk up the long driveway and past the graves where Presley and relatives are buried.
The wristband also provides access to a new $45 million entertainment complex at the Memphis tourist attraction.
Graceland, operated by Elvis Presley Enterprises, says it anticipates large crowds and it has updated its security measures for Elvis Week, the annual celebration of Presley’s life and career in music and movies.
Presley died on August 16, 1977, in Memphis.
A few Presley fans made a pilgrimage to Graceland the year he died, and they have continued coming ever since. Graceland says it averages 500,000 visitors per year from around the world, and attendance for this year’s vigil has been projected at 30,000 to 50,000.
The announcement surprised fans who did not know about the charge when they made plans to come to Elvis Week.
Longtime fan Fred Schwarz of Springfield, Illinois, said he and his wife have been to several vigils and have enjoyed them. But not this year.
He says fans should be insulted at the new charge.
“I don’t want to even go to Memphis any more. The people running that are not Elvis fans. They are in business. Corporations, they want the bottom line,” Schwarz said.
Elvis Presley Enterprises was created by the Elvis Presley Trust to manage its assets, according to Graceland’s website.
It was wholly owned by the Elvis Presley Trust and his daughter, Lisa Marie Presley, until 2005. Elvis Presley Enterprises is now majority-owned by Graceland Holdings. Lisa Marie Presley retains 15% ownership in the company.
The new entertainment complex is part of a $140m expansion, which also includes a $90m, 450-room hotel that opened last year.
The complex, featuring exhibits of Presley’s cars, clothing and other personal items, replaces the ageing buildings that housed the exhibits for years. AP