Up until 1993, January in Parkes was like most other regional towns. People would vacate to coastal locations — drying up spending — and those left were amidst financial Christmas hangovers and paying off credit cards.

The difference from that point on? The Parkes Elvis Festival was born. An event that turned Parkes’ hot sleepy January into a major drawcard on the Australian tourism map.

Starting with a local crowd of just 200. Now, 26 years later, thanks to Bob and Anne Steele’s Elvis themed party epiphany, Parkes in January sees a cash injection of more than $13 million and has close to 27,000 tourists set upon it to do just one thing: honour The King.
The King on stage at the Parkes Elvis Festival 2018.          
“It’s quite amazing” says Cathy Treasure, Director of Parkes Elvis Festival from Parkes Shire Council — the body responsible for the event. “The entire town takes on a completely different look and feel.”  

As an attraction, the Festival has grown to completely enhance Parkes and the entire New England region. Its largescale impacts acting as one of the reasons the Festival won Gold for the third consecutive year at the 2018 NSW Tourism Awards.  

“It’s much more than just a five day festival in January, it’s become a year-long tourism benefit for the region; our museums, artworks, statues, and PR, boosts the local economy all year round and puts people into jobs” says Cathy.

Looking at the Festival on a whole — the mammoth scale it operates on and the numerous facets — you can’t help but think it all seems a little random. Cathy laughs at this observation and agrees “Yes, it is a little random. But it’s grown because of strategic planning, which some has come from the Awards process, and dedication from the fans.”
Parkes Elvis Festival fans are as dedicated to their costumes as they are to their music. 

“We’ve had people coming for 27 years so we’ve had to reinvent ourselves every year while keeping true to the soul of the event and that’s hard after so long. The Awards submission process, however, gives us checks and balances because you have to report on everything that you do. They become a chance to see where the gaps are. It’s great for self-improvement, planning, and growth” says Cathy.   

The NSW Tourism Awards are a prestigious sign of industry excellence and have been for almost thirty years. The process gives tourism operators 27 different categories to enter under and, with or without winning, gives expert industry feedback and marks premium tourism services that benefit the community and are customer focussed.

“It’s made us look at a range of things: triple bottom lines, helping us establish a number of recycling programs, using local infrastructure, social responsibility programs like using volunteers to increase skills in the region, refining our financials and developing things like merchandise so we’re not dependent on our sponsors.”

Cathy Treasure and Parkes Shire Council colleague.

“The Awards process makes us a well-run festival and shows the community we’re doing the right thing. I would highly recommend the process to any Festival or tourism organisation — absolutely.” 

Parkes Elvis Festival, after winning NSW Gold, will go on to be judged at the National level at the Qantas Australian Tourism Awards.

To find out more about entering next year’s NSW Tourism Awards visit www.nswtourismawards.com.au or to see this year’s other category winner’s visit http://www.nswtourismawards.com/Winners-and-Finalists/2018-Winners.

Elvis and festivalgoer in front of Parkes' famous 'dish' - Parkes Observatory.