Fans cheer Presley pretenders at Elvis Fest

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.

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