Elvis lives on – albeit in the rural township of Parkes, a small town west of Sydney Australia – and it is his legendary stardom that keeps the rural community in business, putting it on the national map as Australia’s ‘Elvis capital’.
Published by Blackwell Publishing for the Institute of Australian Geographers in the March 2007 issue of Geographical Research, this paper examines the extent and impact of rural festivals on inland townships and their contributing role in the survival of rural communities.
Using the annual Elvis Revival Festival in the small town of Parkes - 350 km to the west of Sydney, Australia - as a case study, lead author Dr. Chris Gibson from the School of Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University of Wollongong analyzes the manner in which a remote place with little economic prospects managed to successfully create a tourism product, and subsequently captured national publicity. He also calculates the economic significance of this popular festival.
Dr. Gibson said, “Rural festivals can make an important contribution to the struggling economies of inland towns, and are increasingly part of their shift from traditional agricultural bases towards tourism, lifestyle and service industries.”
The Parkes phenomenon is evidence of this – the annual festival based around the commemoration of Elvis Presley’s birthday every January brings over $1 million in direct income to Parkes – a town with few visitor attractions other than the nationally-famous radio telescope, ‘The Dish’.
The festival demonstrates how places (even small towns) can successfully construct ‘tradition’ and new identities and eventually develop thriving economic activities through such festivals. Parkes has done just that: by ‘inventing’ an association between the town and a performer who never visited Australia – let alone Parkes – the township reinvented itself from a struggling rural community of only 8,000 residents to being recognized as the “Elvis capital” of Australia.
Dr. Gibson added, “This is a ‘good news story’ from a region otherwise plagued by drought, facing on-going problems of an ageing community, declining population and poor prospects for agricultural growth. The Festival has grown in size since its initial conception in the 1990s – with notable impact – and the town now partly trades on its association with Elvis, constituting an “invented” tradition and place identity”.
This paper is published in the March 2007 issue of Geographical Research (Vol. 45, Issue 1, 71- 84). Media wishing to receive a PDF or further information should contact Alina Boey, Public Relations Asia.
About Geographical Research
Geographical Research, formerly Australian Geographical Studies, is the international journal of the Institute of Australian Geographers. The journal publishes high quality papers that advance geographical research across the breadth of the discipline. In addition to major research articles, the journal publishes shorter contributions, including Commentaries, Research Notes and Teaching Notes. Geographical Research is published four times per year.
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