MEMPHIS, Tenn — Elvis Week is underway at Graceland and instead of drawing crowds of tens of thousands of people from all over the country and world, many of the events went virtual. One of the events still happening is the annual candlelight vigil but this year it will have more of an intimate crowd.
“It really has become the cornerstone of what Elvis Week is and it’s a very emotional time for a lot of people," Angie Marchese, Graceland Vice-President of Archives & Exhibits, said.
Graceland representatives estimate more than 15,000 people attended last year's Elvis Week and vigil. This year, less than 800 people will be allowed to go through the gates during the vigil.
The vigil will take place on Saturday night, the eve of the 43rd anniversary of Elvis Presley's death.
“I personally think it’s going to be a very unique, intimate experience," Marchese said. "It’s probably going to feel even more special because of the intimacy of it."
Unlike last year's event, where people were free to walk up and gather at the gates before getting in line heading up to the grave site of Elvis Presley, reservations were required.
The reservations, timed out 15 minutes apart, were filled earlier this week and a waiting list has grown.
“The experience, besides the social distancing and the time slots,the experience will still be the same," Marchese said. "You’ll get in queue on the [Elvis Presley] Boulevard, go through the gate, you’ll light your candle through from a torch that was lit from the eternal flame from the Meditation Gardens.”
While smaller than typical crowds for the vigil, 800 people is still a large number during a pandemic but Graceland said with the time slots they can spread visitors out across three hours. Marchese said they'll also be requiring ten feet of social distancing instead of six. Masks will also be required.
“We’re able to keep the heart and soul, what everyone loves as well as maintain our safety precautions and social distancing," Marchese said.
People will begin lining up for the first time slots at 8:30 p.m. on Saturday night before it begins at 9 p.m. The event will be shorter this year, ending at midnight.
Graceland is also hosting its first ever drive-in series. The second showing is on Friday night featuring the '68 Comeback Special. Sunday night will be Elvis: Aloha from Hawaii. Details here.