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September 22, 2014

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Hundreds gather to enjoy King of Rock imitators

Make that THE King.

Elvises were everywhere at a Springfield hotel ballroom, as the would-be kings of rock 'n' roll fired up a crowd of 700 at the Midwest Elvis Presley Impersonators Competition and Winter Jam Saturday.

Impersonators were asked to sing a handful of Elvis songs of their choosing and were scored by a panel of 10 judges. The winners of the first- and second-place prizes Saturday moved to the Images of Elvis Competition, to be held in Memphis in August. That is the Holy Grail of impersonation contests, performers said.

Among the competitors, variations on the Vegas-era Elvis far outweighed the young Elvis version. Most players agreed the older, Vegas Elvis is more popular because it's easier to imitate.

"The young Elvis is hard to do," said 62-year-old Ken Pratt of Decatur, who wore purple velvet with a thigh-length cape. "You've got to have all the energy and the movement involved."

Of those competitors who favored the young Elvis, 19-year-old Tony Ciaglia of Plano, Texas, scorched the crowd with a rousing version of "Hound Dog." He feels Elvis impersonation is not a thing to be taken lightly, and Vegas Elvis impersonators sometimes make a mockery of the King's memory.

Most of the competitors have made the pilgrimage to Graceland, where Presley lived and died, to get a touch of the one true King.

"It's like a shrine," said impersonator Travis DeVall of West Des Moines, Iowa. "I got tears just going up to the wall. He was a legend and still is."

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