Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Return of the King

For the Westlock News

Elvis impersonators will once again flock to Busby to take part in the annual Blue Suede Festival Aug. 21-23. WN File

The Hamlet of Busby will soon be swarmed by devils in disguise as the Blue Suede Music Festival is set to rock out its seventh year at the Busby Sports Grounds on Aug. 21-23.

What began as a simple house concert has blossomed into one of the biggest event in the county with an expected 4,000-plus attendees and at least 14 Elvis tribute artists showing off their burning love for the king, including Brayden Black who, at only six-years-old, already has three years of jailhouse rocking under his belt.

From its humble beginnings, the festival quite literally grew out of itself.

“I met a few local fellows at the Penticton Elvis Festival, and I said we should get a couple of guys out and have a little concert for the friends and neighbors. It would be fun,” said Trudy Taphorn, founder and organizer of the festival.

“Over a hundred people showed up that night, and I didn’t know half of them. I don’t know where they came from or how they found out about it, but they brought bags and bags of stuff for the food bank and it was a really big success.”

By the third year, Taphorn had over 500 people showing up at her acreage, and she decided to move the concert to the Busby Sports Grounds.

The festival, which will feature an RV campground for people who want to keep their melodies unchained, will open its gates at noon on Aug. 21 for campers to settle in for the weekend.

A classic car and truck meet will be held at 5 p.m. in the main parking lot, alongside a meet and greet with the performers at 6 p.m. Festival-goers can sing their own amazing graces at a karaoke party starting at 8 p.m.

The show begins at 10 a.m. on Aug. 22 with singers playing four song sets throughout the day. The concert is expected to carry on until past 11 p.m.

The following day kicks things off with a pancake breakfast with gospel performances starting at 11:30 a.m.

The Blackwood Quartet, built from the ashes of the Blackwood Brothers Quartet (which Elvis actually auditioned for), will be playing at 1:30 p.m. to close the show.

During the day there will be silent auctions, trivia contests and vendors.

Admission to the show is $15 a day or $20 for the whole weekend, as well as a food bank donation for each day of the festival.

Taphorn said she puts much of the proceeds towards the concert for next year.

“A lot of it goes into costs for the festival. People don’t realize what it costs to put on something like this, they just think it’s a few fences and toilets and we’re good to go,” said Taphorn adding that there was about $56,000 in expenses last year.

While the performers are not paid for their performances, Taphorn added that she covers all their travel, food and lodging expenses.

“They donate their time. They aren’t getting paid to perform,” she said.

“For a lot of them, they are making new fans for Elvis’ music.”

Taphorn said she donates whatever money is left over to the food bank, on top of the donations festivalgoers are expected to bring.

Taphorn said that part of her inspiration was Elvis’ inherent love of charity himself.

“Elvis’ love of charity was so incredibly high. He often gave away more than he made,” said Taphorn. “That’s why mine is a charity event.”

Taphorn added that she had thought about changing the charity the event supported every year, but because the food bank is always in need of more help, she decided it was best to stick with what works.

“We collect food for three food banks — Westlock, Morinville and Barrhead — as well as the Ripple Connection in Barrhead,” said Taphorn.

“Everyone is so willing to lend a hand, which is really great.”

Last year the festival drew over 3,500 fans and collected over 4,375 pounds of food, in addition to raising $2,500 for the three food banks and the Ripple Connection.

That’s all right, mama.

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