Laughlin Elvis Fest: Arrival, Showcase & Round One

LAUGHLIN, NV.  We arrived safely at our destination and we immediately knew it was going to be an exciting weekend.  The hotel clerk said she had seen Elvis six times.  Of course, this lead to a conversation which she mentioned working at Disneyland where she used to see an ETA who regularly performed at the Magic Kingdom®.  She couldn’t remember his name, but Jeanne Marie’s face lit up and said, “Scot Bruce?”

Scot Bruce

Scot Bruce

Scot Bruce is the first ETA we saw.  He introduced us to this exciting ETA world.  Incidentally, you may or may not know, but Jeanne Marie is the Facebook manager for his fan page.  For more about Scot Bruce go to Scot Bruce Fans.  Wow, it’s a small world after all.

All checked in, we made our way to the 24th floor to our room facing the Colorado River.  The green hue of the river rippled with the white foam of small, rolling waves from Seados skimming it from one end of the river to the next.  The view is gorgeous, but our room leaves very little to be desired.  It is an outdated respite built in 1994 with a decor that seems to be keeping in time with a 1970s and early 1980s vibe.  It’s a river cave with carpet, heat and A/C, and running water designed with keeping costs low and a comfortable place to rest.

Fortunately, the entertainment was more luxurious.  The excitment for the weekend began with an ETA showcase where all the competitors had the luxury of entertaining us without being judged.  It was an evening to give the fans a taste for the talent before they vied for their chance to compete at the UETAC in Memphis.

We bumped into ETA, Will Humbarger, prior to the show and struck up a conversation about the chain jumpsuit he was wearing. He made it.  Will said he enrolled in a college course and learned how to sew in order to save money.  It was an impressive design and a testament to his tailoring skills.  Now, that’s what I call commitment and frugal ingenuity.

Will Humbarger in Chain Jumpsuit

Will Humbarger in Chain Jumpsuit

The ETAs rocked the showcase and brought an exciting close to day one filled with anticipation for the events of day two.  It was time to start taking care of business.

Every ETA looks in the mirror, judges himself, and sizes himself up against the competition.  He knows his strengths and the competition’s strengths, but fights through the fear and doubt while keeping his eyes on the prize.  He knows he must do his best to win.  Every lyric, every note, and every move is rehearsed in his head over and over again until the emcee announces his name.  He steps out on stage in a ray of blinding light to thundering applause and realizes it’s not really about the prize.  The prize is just the finish line.  It’s about what he will do with the song in the next three or four minutes when the music is cued.  ~ From Words of Encouragment

Click HERE to see pictures of the competitors.

The boys came out swinging on day two for the first round of competition.  Some hit a home run while others made it on base with no outs.  The fans were making lists of the winners and losers and debating the reasons for their choices. There were several standout performances indicated by three standing ovations for Chris Luna’s passionate, You’ll Never Walk Alone, Mark Stevenz’s equally passionate, Bridge Over Troubled Water, and Joe Bullock’s energetic, Polk Salad Annie.

Jimmi Ellis is always a consistent player with his rich, strong voice which resonates in your chest and touches the soul.  Rob Ely never disappoints portraying the early years with electrifying, accurate performances capturing the unique qualities of Elvis’ youthful singing style.  Jimmi and Rob give the fans a living evolution of Elvis from controversial rocker (Rob) to mature, powerhouse vocalist (Jimmi).

Tall, shy and a contradiction like Elvis who seemed reserved off stage, but commanded the world onstage, is Shane Paterson.  A veteran ETA who shares that same confidence onstage with his distinctive tribute to the King of Rock & Roll.

Shane Paterson

Shane Paterson

Rounding out the competition is Will Humbarger, George Thomas, Fernie Ramirez, Dennis Thornberry, Fred Cineros, and Anthony Ocama.

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Ladies and gentlemen, that is your 2013 Laughlin Elvis Fest competitors.  Good luck to all.


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