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Elvis Pilgrims Pay Respects at King’s Grave

August 16, 1996

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) _ The big laminated button on Marion Littig’s T-shirt said it all: ``I really miss Elvis.″

Littig and several thousand other pilgrims took part in a candlelight procession Thursday night past Elvis Presley’s grave on the 19th anniversary of his death.

``You have to celebrate this day,″ said Littig, who traveled with several friends from the Minneapolis area.

For many Elvis fans, the procession is the crowning event of a weeklong tribute focused on the anniversary. He died at Graceland, his Memphis residence, on Aug. 16, 1977.

The vigil begins each year on the evening of the 15th, drawing up to 10,000 participants and onlookers who pack the street, Elvis Presley Boulevard, in front of Graceland.

The mourners, holding candles fired from Graceland’s eternal flame, marched up a winding, quarter-mile driveway to Presley’s grave in a small garden beside Graceland’s swimming pool.

Many left single red roses and other small gifts at the grave.

``You kind of get the feeling that he’s still here. It’s hard to explain, but you feel him still there,″ Littig said.

Waiting for the vigil, fans listened at two large tents across the street from Graceland to bands playing Presley’s music and to other fans singing with karaoke tapes.

They watched continuous Elvis movies at a shopping center pavilion and shopped at Graceland’s sprawling souvenir complex. Elvis impersonators in bespangled jumpsuits were sprinkled through the crowd, stopping to pose now and then for pictures with fans.

Holly Geller and her mother, Cricket, came from Hollywood, Fla., and already were making plans for returning for the 20th anniversary.

``It’s out of respect and love,″ she said. ``Elvis touched everybody in the world, he really did. Nobody has touched the world the way Elvis touched the world and nobody ever will again.″

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