LAKE GEORGE - Standing at the rear of the Shepard Park stage, 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 May 28 in Shepard Park was a preview of last weekend's LakeGeorge.com Elvis Festival at which 65 tribute artists sang a total of 1,600 Elvis songs, or 5,000 minutes of singing and gyrating, performer Terry Collins told the enthusiastic crowd.
"Lake George is under siege," he said as the crowd cheered.
The festival, lauded by fans, organizers and community leaders, showcased 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 included continuous performances last 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 were at Painted Pony Ranch in Lake Luzerne.
Tuesday, event organizer Jason Sherry said the professionalism and talent of the 2009 tribute artists were outstanding, as more than 30 professional impersonators were competing, more than ever for the Lake George Elvis Fest.
"We were thrilled with the weekend," he said. "Advance sales were initially down, but the last-minute sales nearly made up the deficit."
"We were pleased with the strong ticket sales," he said.
On both Friday and Saturday at the Painted Pony Saloon, fans enjoyed dinner with the tribute artists which allowed them to meet and greet the top performers of the weekend. The Elvis fest included two Vegas-style shows featuring dozens of award-winning performers. The Friday show is titled incorporated performances by tribute artists portraying Tom Jones, Rod Stewart, Elton John, Ricky Nelson, and James Brown.
Sherry said this new aspect of the Elvis Fest was immensely popular.
"We had phenomenal feedback from the fans," he said.
Saturday started off with the Elvis Classic Car Parade extending from Lake George village to Lake Luzerne and Painted Pony Ranch. Saturday afternoon included three afternoon cruises on Lake George Steamboat Company's Minne-Ha-Ha with an Elvis tribute artist onboard. These two days ended "Elvis After Hours" parties, Friday at the Boardwalk Restaurant, and Saturday at Neptune's Pub.
Saturday, Elvis tribute artists performed 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.
Sunday featured an Elvis-inspired Gospel Concert at 10 a.m. at the Painted Pony Ranch. A lineup of tribute artists was onstage singing Elvis' gospel hits. The event was sponsored by the Adirondack Journal and Denpubs.com, and donations for the United Way were collected.
Elvis competition finals were held Sunday. Winning the Overall 2009 Elvis Tribute Artist championship title was Kevin Mills of Richmond Hill Ontario, and he will be representing the Lake George Elvis Fest in the international competition set for Memphis.
In the May 28 performance, fans cheered the Elvis Fest'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, 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.
Sherry has planned a similar Elvis Festival for Labor Day weekend in Manchester, NH.
Details on the event are available on www.ElvisFests.com.