Travel

The new destination Elvis Presley fans should be flocking to

NZ Herald
By Sue Wallace

Jail House Rock is blaring as we attempt to paint a portrait of Elvis Presley - pink, purple, lime green, black and white paint at the ready.

Fortunately, professional artist, Laura Bruce, is here to help, plus she's already done the outline, so it's a bit like painting by numbers and you get to take home your work of art of "The King".

It's usually a paint and pinot session, but while Elvis is in town - well, at least his Australian exclusive exhibition coup is at the Bendigo Art Gallery - the East Bendigo Brewing Company's special edition King Pale Ale, is more appropriate.

Paint the Town Presley is one of 30 activities featured in the festivities. Photo / Supplied
Paint the Town Presley is one of 30 activities featured in the festivities. Photo / Supplied

The Paint the Town Presley workshops are just one of 30 fun activities that feature in the Viva Bendigo four-month celebration as Elvis takes centre stage in the regional Victorian city, just a one-hour drive or train trip from Melbourne.

Devoted fans and the curious are getting all shook up over the new blockbuster exhibition Elvis: Direct from Graceland that showcases more than 300 exclusive items and artefacts, once owned by Presley.

Outside the Bendigo Art Gallery in Victoria, Australia. Photo / Supplied
Outside the Bendigo Art Gallery in Victoria, Australia. Photo / Supplied

On loan from Graceland Memphis, they include personal items such as his library card, box of crayons, military uniforms, his wedding suit and Priscilla's gown and veil, along with their daughter Lisa Marie's tiny jacket and toys.

You can see the bongo drums Priscilla gave to Presley for their first Christmas as sweethearts and his bedside gold telephone.

The exhibit includes items like Elvis' 1976 Red Bicentennial Custom Harley Davidson. Photo / Supplied
The exhibit includes items like Elvis' 1976 Red Bicentennial Custom Harley Davidson. Photo / Supplied

Big-ticket items include the shiny red convertible 1960 MG that featured in his 1961 movie Blue Hawaii and his 1976 Red Bicentennial Custom Harley Davidson.

Elvis' many outfits are featured, including his wedding suit. Photo / Supplied
Elvis' many outfits are featured, including his wedding suit. Photo / Supplied

As we wander through, Presley's hits are blaring and I'm soon singing along to Can't Help Falling in Love and It's Now or Never. But it's the room full of his "look at me" wardrobe that has people swooning – think rhinestone-studded jumpsuits and those capes with silver linings and the flamboyant bling of the 1970s.

From 'that' blue suit to countless pairs of flared pants, the exhibit takes visitors through Elvis' most iconic concert outfits. Photo / Supplied For Trav May 10 22
From 'that' blue suit to countless pairs of flared pants, the exhibit takes visitors through Elvis' most iconic concert outfits. Photo / Supplied For Trav May 10 22

There's the outfit he wore to meet President Nixon, the studded American eagle suit he wore to perform live via satellite in Aloha from Hawaii and a dazzling array of Vegas suits as well as his casual off-stage outfits.

Already, there have been record crowds eager to gain a glimpse into Presley's extraordinary life and style and there has been much praise for the exhibition.

Elvis: Direct from Graceland showcases more than 300 exclusive items and artefacts, once owned by Presley. Photo / Supplied
Elvis: Direct from Graceland showcases more than 300 exclusive items and artefacts, once owned by Presley. Photo / Supplied

The gallery's curatorial manager, Lauren Ellis says the more she delved into Presley's life, the more she wanted to know.

"He is one of the most iconic public figures of the 20th century and his influence on music, fashion and art was profound," she says.

"Forty-five years on from his death, his recording career achievements are unmatched, and his image and style are constantly referenced and re-mixed in design and pop culture."

Visitors can also see Elvis' famous car. Photo / Supplied
Visitors can also see Elvis' famous car. Photo / Supplied

But the Elvis experience doesn't end there – for lots of fun join the Shake, Rattle and Roll Cocktail Tram at weekends.

The King has landed...in Bendigo. Photo / Supplied
The King has landed...in Bendigo. Photo / Supplied

You can sip a Love Me Tender cocktail listening to the legendary sounds as the tram rattles along Bendigo's picturesque streetscape – be prepared for a little dancing in the aisles.

Bendigo, which has been recognised by the UNESCO Creative Cities Network as a City of Gastronomy, is also going all out with Elvis-themed dining options.

Many eateries have recreated the King's favourite foods. Photo / Supplied
Many eateries have recreated the King's favourite foods. Photo / Supplied

Hustler, a modern American diner has a Burning Love burger on the menu, but it's the Fool's Burger complete with a jam doughnut bun, peanut butter, raspberry jelly, potato crisps, maple bacon, and 150g patty served with fries that's the talk of the town.

Top it off with a peanut butter and jelly gateau and a Hound Dog cocktail with peanut butter fat washed bourbon, brulee banana syrup, raspberry liqueur and bacon.

Indulge Fine Belgium Chocolates in the heart of Bendigo Central has created an Elvis-inspired peanut butter and jelly chocolate bonbon while the Bluebird Patisserie is the home of the Blue Suede Choux treats. Drop into Ms Batterhams for a Blueberry Shoe cocktail, tasty canapes and dinner.

Blue Suede Shoe Patisserie. Photo / Supplied
Blue Suede Shoe Patisserie. Photo / Supplied

Other treats include The Dispensary restaurant in Chancery Lane, which has a special Aloha cocktail and snack menu inspired by Presley's time in the tropics.

Rock n Roll Pizza Sundays at St Anne's Winery Bendigo offer house-made pizzas, award-winning wines and live music – playing Elvis hits, of course.

Bendigo transforms to celebrate The King. Photo / Supplied For Trav May 10 22
Bendigo transforms to celebrate The King. Photo / Supplied For Trav May 10 22

Forget Las Vegas – it's all about Viva Bendigo with its Bright Light City activation that glows from 7pm in the piazza when the 2.5m high letters light up. Elvis may have left the building, but no doubt, he would be all shook up by this fabulous tribute.

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DETAILS

Elvis: Direct from Graceland is on until July 17 at the Bendigo Art Gallery. bendigoregion.com.au