Robert Washington performs on stage at Electric Park Ballroom in 2016.

WATERLOO – Watch for an uptick in Elvis sightings during the Blue Suede Memories International Elvis Tribute Artist competition April 26-28. At least 15 Elvis tribute artists are expected to compete for prizes, fan favorite and bragging rights.

The ninth annual event is Iowa’s largest Elvis tribute and takes place at Electric Park Ballroom. Shows are at 7 p.m. April 26 and 27 and 2 p.m. April 28. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. for Friday and Saturday shows and 1 p.m. on Sunday. A Grand Prix owned and driven by Elvis will be on display.

Last year’s competition was attended by 1,100 people, said Donna Volker of Stardust Productions, who is co-producing the event with Buzz Anderson. “Everybody likes rock ‘n’ roll. We like to hear music we listened to when we were younger because it makes us feel young," said Donna Volker of Stardust Production, who is co-producing the event with Buzz Anderson.

"Younger generations hear Elvis' music and are getting hooked, too. Elvis covered every genre of music, so there's something to appeal to everyone."

Robert Washington is the headliner. Washington, from Auburn, Maine, is a two-time world champion ETA and three-time Blue Suede Memories champion.

Irv Cass will emcee the shows. Change of Habit, a band officially recognized by Graceland, will accompany special guests and contestants.

“We have one of the biggest numbers of contestants that we’ve ever had. Competitors talk to each other about how much fun it is, so they want to come. It means we’re doing something right,” Volker said. 

Youth, non-professional and professional Elvis tribute artists will compete in their individual categories. The youngest ETA is 14. Pros make 60 percent or more of their income as ETAs. Competitors will include Ken Yahnke, Ron Tutor Jr., Logan Ramey, Russ Brittain, Elvis Prince, Ricky Brunner. Anthony Shore, Jimmy Hutchins, Russ Rice and Elvis-Brad Rouse, among others.

There are enough competitors that half of the artists will perform April 26 and the other half on April 27, Volker said. Finalists will compete for the title on April 28. 

Advance tickets are $30 for each show and $35 at the door. A limited number of reserved tickets are available. VIP platinum-level tickets are $55 per seat/per show or $160 for the three-show package and gold-level tickets are $50 per seat/per show or $145 for the three-show package. For advance tickets or VIP tickets, contact Volker at 290-8097.

A silent auction will benefit House of Hope. After-parties will take place following each show at Majestic Moon Party & Event Center, at the corner of La Porte Road and Locke Avenue. Music will be provided by Sound FX disc jockeys. The public may attend.

The annual gospel show and breakfast begins at 10 a.m. April 28. Doors open at 9:30 a.m. Tickets are $30, sold in advance by Volker.

Several events are planned April 27 at the Days Inn on La Porte Road, including Elvis Bingo to benefit House of Hope from 10 a.m. to noon. At 1 p.m. two ETAs will perform a special tribute to Johnny Cash and Roy Orbison as a fundraiser to help a fellow ETA pay for medical expenses, Volker said. Tickets are $10 at the door.

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Arts/Special Sections Editor

Special Sections Editor for the Courier

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