LAKE GEORGE - Smiling to the raucous cheers from the audience, Elvis tribute artist Matt Joyce stepped off the stage Thursday at Shepard Park.
Joyce's performance, emulating Elvis' signature snarling, his gritty voice, gyrating hip movements and fancy fifties' footwork, drove the fans into a frenzy at the annual Lake George Elvis Festival's opening performance. The free preview concert drew an enthusiastic crowd of about 500.
Joyce said the Elvis Festival lived up to its billing as the second-largest Elvis event outside of Memphis - and it did so with unmatched energy from the audience.
"When the fans come here to Lake George for this weekend, they're ready for it all, and they just grab you in," said the entertainer from Conway, Arkansas who has a regular gig impersonating Elvis at a club in Memphis.
One of those cheering Joyce was Donna Bardelli of Cohoes. She and her sister Connie and son John saved every spare dime and dollar for a full year so they could afford to come back for yet another year at the Lake George Elvis Festival.
During several performances Thursday, Bardelli was gyrating in her motorized wheelchair which was adorned with stickers of The King and had an Elvis purse hanging from its left armrest.
Bardelli admitted she's an Elvis fan, having an extensive collection of Elvis 45s, LPs, as well as Elvis furniture, clothing, photos, paintings and memorabilia filling her home.
She said the Lake George Elvis Festival was the annually the highlight of the year for her and her relatives.
"When you hear these guys perform, you can close your eyes and see Elvis right here with you," she said.
Concertgoer Pat Harrington did have Elvis right with her Thursday, like she has 24-7 for six years.
Harrington showed another fan her tattoo of Elvis' face in a crucifix emblazoned on her back, accompanied with lightning bolts surrounding the letters T.C.B., an acronym of "Taking Care of Business" - an emblem favored by the King.