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Small Town Elvis
by Kathryn Mussallem


For many years, I have been documenting small town celebrations in the Pacific Northwest: parades, state fairs, vintage car shows, Oktoberfests, and more. Over the years I have noticed that there is often a requisite Elvis impersonator that entertains the crowds. Every small town seems to have a local Elvis tribute artist, or “ETA,” as they prefer to be called, who performs as ladies of a certain age swoon and wipe the sweat from Elvis’ brow.

The ETAs gather every year from all over the world to attend an Elvis jamboree in a small Western Canadian town. At the Penticton Elvis Festival, hundreds of ETAs take to the stage or shop for new bedazzled costume pieces and Elvis-themed souvenirs. They roam around the town in shiny polyester shirts and oversized belt buckles—making the ladies squeal as they take over the local karaoke bars.