Parkes – The Elvis Capital of Australia.

The town of Parkes lies 355 km to the west of Sydney but just under 100 km from Orange. Dani and myself passed through Parkes on the train to Broken Hill just over a year ago. But you see absolutely nothing on the train as the line sits on one side of the town. It wasn’t until months later that I actually bothered reading up on Parkes and found out what it is most famous for…

The Elvis Festival

It all started in 1992 at the Gracelands Hotel when the owners (Elvis fans) decided to host an Elvis Presley themed dinner night at the hotel. Over that dinner things were discussed that turned it into an annual event which grew and grew over the years. It eventually became a huge event taking over the whole town and is now a big tourism boost for Parkes.

Elvis Presley statue in Cooke park, Parkes.

The festival is held on the second week of January to coincide with the “King’s” birthday (January 8th). Although this year (as well as last) the festival did not take place due to bloody covid restrictions (Grrrr.…). At least this year it has been rescheduled for April. All the hotels are already fully booked with long waiting lists if anyone drops out. I know because I checked….

Elvis statue at the Gracelands Hotel
They all died young… This artwork also at Gracelands Hotel

Various examples of Elvis inspired artwork decorate the town, sometimes where you least expect it. Not that many but just enough…

More Elvis inspired artwork

Even one of those rhino statues – made and distributed to gain support for the Taronga zoo save the rhinos thing – has been given an Elvis suit.

Elvis the Rhino

There are quite a few pubs in Parkes which will obviously go down well during the Elvis festival as they host various Elvis based shows and concerts. Here are some examples…

Cambridge Hotel
Broadway Hotel
Commercial Hotel

It’s down an the end of Lonely Street (or so I thought)…

With a motel named Gracelands, I expected there to be another hotel name in the town. I asked someone in a pub if there was a Heartbreak Hotel. My question was wasted. She looked at me as if I had just grown a second head. Clearly not knowing what Heartbreak Hotel meant (relating to Elvis). Over in Memphis, the King of Rock & Roll turned slightly in his grave. Well, I guess not everyone in the town has to be an Elvis fan.

Hold on! I recognise that style…
An outback take on Elvis by John Murray the famous outback artist
Other (non Elvis) artwork in Cooke Park

Even the public toilets have Elvis posters
The King and the Christmas Tree. It was nearly 40 degrees!

It’s amazing what a good welder can create with some lumps of scrap metal. Especially if the welder is inspired by Elvis….

Elvis sculpture on the Henry Parkes Way west of the town.

Mr. Parkes

Like so many towns in this part of the world Parkes sprouted up as a gold mining town only to become a farming area once the easily accessibe gold ran out.

Of course the town is named after another famous person, Henry Parkes. Sir Henry Parkes to give him his full title – but I can’t really bring myself to use that word since a certain Tony Blair recently received the same “honour”. Sorry Henry mate!

Unlike Blair, Parkes was a great statesman (as far as we know) and after his first visit to the town (then called Bushmans) in 1873, he secured a new hospital, roads and telegraph lines for the people of the town and they duly renamed it Parkes.

He may not be as well known globally as the ‘King of Rock n Roll’ but he too has a statue erected in his honour in the centre of town… A fitting tribute to the 5 times NSW Premier.

Sir Henry Parkes statue in the centre of town.

The Dish…

Parkes is also a famous astronomical location. Just north of the town sits this large radio telescope operated by CSIRO. With a diameter of 64 metres, it is one of the largest single-dish telescopes in the southern hemisphere. It has been operational since 1961 but has had several upgrades over the years. It is now said to be 10,000 times more sensitive than when it was first built. Wow! That’s what I call ‘upgrades’.

Just like the Outback Explorer train route, Parkes was my launch point into the outback. From here it was north to Bourke via Nyngan – plus a few small towns on the way…

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