Happy birthday Elvis! Priscilla Presley, fans gather to celebrate the King

Fans, friends and distinguished guests gathered in Graceland’s front lawn early Saturday morning to slice a huge cake fit for a king, in celebration of Elvis Presley’s 87th birthday.

The ceremony honoring Presley – who died on August 16, 1977 – marked the official launch of what is expected to be a major year for Elvis’ activity. In addition to the 45th anniversary of Presley’s death, 2022 marks the 65th anniversary of his purchase of the Graceland property and the 40th anniversary of Graceland’s opening as a public attraction.

Jack Soden, longtime CEO of Elvis Presley Enterprises, began the proceedings, jokingly stating that “Jan. 8 is always the coldest day in Memphis.”

Freezing temperatures didn’t stop several hundred fans – including a group of international Elvis aides who had returned to Graceland – from gathering for a cake-cutting party and singing “Happy Birthday” to Elvis.

The birthday party was just one of many events held as part of Elvis’ annual birthday weekend at Graceland. Saturday’s festivities included seminars and discussions about Elvis’ life and career, and a concert to celebrate his music from the Memphis Symphony Orchestra.

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The special guest for the weekend was Presley’s ex-wife, Priscilla Presley, who had flown in from California to attend. “I am very surprised how many people are here,” Presley said to the assembled crowd early in the morning. On the plane I was thinking, ‘What if no one shows up?’ “But I know that Elvis fans will always show up.”

Presley added that it was “bittersweet for me to be here in front of Graceland. It’s been 45 years. I still can’t believe it,” she said. “I can’t believe he’s gone. But I still think it’s here. His soul is here.”

Presley remembered Elvis as a showman and artist, who had a larger than life image, but also as a very loving and special person. “To know the humanity of that man, his humanity was very touching and very honest. I have never met anyone like him.”

Noting the 45 years since his death, Presley praised the singer’s fans for continuing his music and legend. “[Elvis] It was meant to be here for a purpose. And I know he would be happy to see all the fans he still had,” she said. “He never thought he would be so popular as he is today. I’m still in awe that you’re still supporting him here. We are all here to keep his legacy alive and it won’t stop.”

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Graceland plans Elvis 45 in 2022

To that end, companies Elvis Presley and Graceland have ambitious plans to celebrate what they call “Elvis 45” in 2022.

Graceland plans to open four new showrooms during the year. This will include “Rock On,” a guitar pop-up exhibition in partnership with Gibson Guitars that will launch later this month. In May, the exhibition “Elvis: Dressed to Rock,” featuring Elvis’ overalls and stage clothes from 1969 to 1977, will open. And in June, “Graceland: Welcome to My World” exhibition will celebrate the 40th anniversary of Graceland’s opening to the public. Dear Elvis, an exhibition honoring Elvis fans, will open in August.

Other plans include permanent events such as the Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Weekend in March, Graceland Performing Arts Camp in June, Elvis Week 2022 in August, Holiday Lighting Weekend in November, and Christmas Tours in December. Other non-recurring events include a planned Valentine’s Day event, the “Gilhouse Rock Concert” in April, and Musical Weekend in Memphis in September, among other programs.

This article originally appeared on Memphis Trade Appeal: Elvis Presley’s Birthday: Priscilla Presley, fans celebrate the King

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