LAKE GEORGE - Standing at the rear of the Shepard Park stage Thursday evening, Elvis tribute artist Gino Minopoli watched another performer portraying the King of Rock 'n Roll sing and strut while the rain-soaked audience of about 1,000 echoed his phrases and cheered.
"Lake George is a fantastic venue, and this Elvis Fest is incredible," said Minopoli, from Toronto. "The fans here are really warm and sincere, and they really embrace the Elvis tribute artists."
This free show in Shepard Park offered a preview of this weekend's LakeGeorge.com Elvis Festival at which 65 tribute artists are booked, singing 1,600 Elvis songs, or 5,000 minutes of singing and gyrating, performer Terry Collins told Thursday's enthusiastic crowd.
"Lake George is under siege," he said as the crowd cheered.
The festival is showcasing some of the best tribute artists from around the nation, as well as one from Australia, Barbados, and the Mideast nation of Qatar.
Events for the weekend include continuous performances from 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday by tribute artists competing to secure a berth in the 2009 Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Competition in Memphis. Both this preliminary round and the finals are sanctioned by the one-and-only Elvis Presley Enterprises. The performances are at Painted Pony Ranch in Lake Luzerne off Rte. 9L.
From 6 to 8 p.m. both Friday and Saturday at the Painted Pony Saloon, Dinner with the Tribute Artists allows guests to meet and greet the top performers of the weekend. An Italian buffet is scheduled for Friday evening, and a barbecue is set for Saturday. Each is $22 per person.
At 8:30 p.m. both Friday and Saturday, the Elvis fest will present their two Vegas-style shows featuring dozens of award-winning performers. The Friday show is titled "The Great Pretenders - Elvis & Friends," which includes tribute artists portraying Tom Jones, Rod Stewart, Elton John, Ricky Nelson, and James Brown.
Saturday's show is titled "On Stage: 1969 Opening Night at the International." Tickets are $35 to $100 for the shows, and package prices are available for all events. See www.LakeGeorgeElvisFest.com for tickets and pricing information.
Saturday starts off with the Elvis Classic Car Parade at 9 a.m., starting in Lake George Village and extending to Lake Luzerne and Painted Pony Ranch. Saturday afternoon includes three afternoon cruises on Lake George Steamboat Company's Minne-Ha-Ha with an Elvis tribute artist onboard. These two days end with the 11 p.m. "Elvis After Hours" parties, Friday at the Boardwalk Restaurant, and Saturday at Neptune's Pub.
From 10 to 6 p.m. Saturday, Elvis tribute artists will be performing in venues and restaurants scattered through the area, including at Blais Park and Shepard Park, the Boardwalk Restaurant, Adirondack Pub & Brewery, King Neptune's Pub, Bella Luna, and Pavilion Park in Lake Luzerne. See the "Elvis Around Town" listings at www.LakeGeorgeElvisFest.com for details.
Elvis Memorabilia will be on sale all weekend at the ranch, which is open to anyone with a paid show admission.
Sunday features an Elvis-inspired Gospel Concert at 10 a.m. at the Painted Pony Ranch. A lineup of tribute artists will be onstage singing Elvis' gospel hits. The event is sponsored by the Adirondack Journal and Denpubs.com, and donations for the United Way will be collected.
11:30 a.m. on Sunday brings Elvis Bingo and the Elvis competition finals will follow, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. An Elvis Festival Wrapup Party is set from 6 to 11 p.m. Sunday at the Steel Pier off Beach Rd.
On Thursday night, fans got a taste of this year's new feature of additional tribute artists, experiencing the exotic gyrations and soaring voice of Irv Cass of Fenton Michigan as Tom Jones, and the raspy voice and spiked hair of Steve Bobbitt of Peoria Illinois as Rod Stewart.
Bobbitt wandered through the Shepard Park crowd, singing Stewart's version of Sam Cook's Havin' a Party while people were taken aback by Bobbitt's striking similarity to Stewart, and his mastery of Stewart's mannerisms.
After the show, one audience member gasped, saying that Bobbitt looked more like Rod Stewart than Stewart himself did. Backstage, Bobbitt remarked that when he arrived at Albany Airport Thursday, a group travelers at the baggage claim spontaneously broke into a chorus of the classic Stewart hit "Maggie May."
"A woman there looked at me and walked straight into a closed door," he said with a Stewart-esque smirk.