Put on your blue suede shoes and head to Branson next weekend for the 17th Annual Branson Elvis Festival. Enjoy great music and amazing competition as 19 talented Elvis tribute artists compete for prizes and a spot in the national contest.

By Sandy Selby

If one Elvis makes for a rockin’ evening, imagine how much fun you’ll have when 19 Elvis tribute artists get together for a fabulous festival! The 17th Annual Branson Elvis Festival takes place March 15-17 at the Pepsi Legends Theatre and welcomes amazing performers from Brazil, Japan, and the United States.

The festival begins with the Elvis Meet & Greet on Friday, March 15, at 5:30 p.m. Check out the Elvis Vendor Village in the theater lobby on Saturday, and then settle in for the Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Contest. The semi-finals take place on Saturday, March 16 at 3 p.m. and the competition wraps up with the finals the following day at 2 p.m.

The contestants eagerly await this competition. “They usually start reaching out to us as soon as this year’s festival is over,” says Jill Heppner, marketing director for Pepsi Legends Theater. “We get quite a few entries, and we vet them.”

Contestants will be judged on vocals, appearance, and stage presence. The winner will receive a prize package and the opportunity to compete in the 2024 Ultimate Elvis Tribute Contest finals presented by Elvis Presley Enterprises Inc. this August at Graceland in Memphis. Only performers who compete and win in a sanctioned contest, like the one in Branson, are eligible to compete at Graceland. According to Jill, Branson winners have gone on to take the top prize in the national contest. “We’ve had several win “Ultimate,” she says, and we’ve had many place in the Top Five and Top Ten.”

Jill says that about 200 of the festival attendees return year after year and are present for every event from start to finish. “If we don’t know them by name, we know them by face,” she says of the festival regulars. The weekend-long event typically attracts about 600 Elvis fans.  

This year’s festivalgoers are in for a special treat with three headliner concerts. Ronnie McDowell performs on Friday at 8 p.m., Bill Cherry takes the stage on Saturday at 8 p.m., and Ryan Pelton performs at the Sunday morning gospel show at 11 a.m.

Tickets are available for each event during the festival and may be purchased at BransonElvisFestival.com. Tickets are $20 (plus tax) for the Meet & Greet event, and range from $35 to $50 for headliner concerts and the contest. The vendor fair, which runs from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, is free and open to the public.

All photos courtesy of Pepsi Legends Theater.

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