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Elvis lives at Big E Festival
Alex Swindle swings his hips during last year’s Elvis Tribute Competition during the Big E Festival in Cornelia. He and other tribute artists will compete for the prize Aug. 1 at the Grant Reeves VFW Post next weekend.

12th annual Big E Festival and Elvis Tribute Artist competition

When: Noon Saturday, Aug. 1

Where: Grant Reeves VFW Post 7720, 423 VFW Post Road, Cornelia

Cost: $15 for first-come, first-serve seats; VIP tickets sold out

More info: or 706-499-1370

If you’re craving a peanut butter and banana sandwich, a Moonpie or a taste of late king of rock ’n’ roll, the 12th Big E Festival and Elvis Tribute Artist competition in Cornelia is the place to be.

So grab your blue suede shoes and head over to Grant Reeves VFW Post 7720 on Saturday, Aug. 1, and enjoy all things celebrating the Elvis Presley.

Festival doors open at noon with the show starting at 1 p.m. at 423 VFW Post Road across from Wal-Mart. Advance VIP tickets may be sold out but general admission tickets are first-come, first-serve for $15 Saturday.

The festival started in 2003 when one Elvis performer on a small stage of the Loudermilk Boarding House porch morphed into a full-blown King contest.

“When I had about three or four (Elvis tribute artists), I started having a contest,” organizer Joni Mabe said. “Each year, it’s just gotten larger and larger.”

Now, it is a main event for Elvis fans across the country. And with its growth, Mabe had to find a more fitting venue. She selected this year’s location based on its time-capsule feel.

“When I walked in (Grant Reeves VFW Post restaurant area), it had the olive green carpet,” Mabe said during a phone interview. “The booths were olive. It had the paneling. It had the plastic flowers in the middle. And all I needed to do was add the macrame hanging baskets.”

Mabe said she hopes when people enter through the doors they will feel transported back in time. And the costumed contestants will help sell the late 1960s and early 1970s vibe.

“They’ve got the jumpsuits, and they’ve got the hairstyle and the rings, and the scarves,” said Mabe, the self-proclaimed Elvis babe. “It’s a big tribute to Elvis.”

This year’s ETA competition features 14 Elvis tribute artists, all competing for the $1,000 first-place prize. The second-place winner will walk away with $500, and third earns $250.

While three out-of-town guests will judge the competition, festivalgoers may cast their votes for $1 per entry for the People’s Choice Award.

All proceeds will benefit the John B. Gesbocker Animal Shelter in Clarkesville. With more than $400 raised last year, this year’s goal is expected to exceed that amount.

In addition to the contest, vendors will provide some cuisine, including some of Elvis’ favorites, and door prizes will be given out. Elvis impersonator Robby Dean Scott also will perform the fan favorite “Polk Salad Annie.”

But if you can’t wait to get all shook up before the Aug. 1 show, a 1970s Variety Show will kick off the activities Friday, July 31.

For $10, visitors may hear hits song from Elvis during the 1970s. The Friday night event also will feature a Waylon Jennings performer and a tribute to Michael Jackson from the era.

“That’s going to be totally different from past years,” Mabe said. “We’ll be having stuff like Tang. We’ll have a display of stuff from the ’70s, like the pet rock and mood ring, Saturday Night Fever stuff, eight-track tapes, and clothes with the big butterfly collar.”

The show starts at 7 p.m. at the Grant Reeves VFW Post 7720.

Guests are encouraged to don outfits inspired by the ’70s, with the best dressed winning special door prizes.

The night will include several other impersonators from the past and a KISS photo booth.

“I don’t know what it is, Elvis is still mysterious to me. He had whatever it is,” Mabe said. “When the hair rises on my arm when some of these guys perform, it’s like OK, he nailed it, he got it.”

For more information about the festival, visit For tickets, call Ginger Demore at 706-499-1370.