As the week marking the 40th anniversary of Presley’s death drew to a close, thousands of fans journeyed home from annual pilgrimages to Presley’s home in Memphis, Tennessee.
It is a journey 18-year-old Hayley Kinsner of Bullard has made nearly every year since the 35th anniversary of Presley’s death.
Kinsner grew up listening to Presley and has been an avid fan from a young age.
“People think I’m crazy for being such a huge Elvis fan and I don’t care,” Kinsner said laughing. “I just embrace it. His music is so powerful and has carried me through difficult times, lifting me up.”
Kinsner said being part of Elvis week in Memphis has been life changing and something she looks forward to every year, in fact, she saves up for the trip all year long. She said Presley’s diverse fan base spans across all backgrounds, and being a part of it has been like having a second, worldwide family.
“I have so many friends from all over the world that I have met at Elvis Events,” Kinsner said. “Fan clubs from Brazil, Germany, Ireland, and Belgium all make it to Elvis Week and buy out entire hotels. I met one of my best friends there who is originally from Canada. I have Elvis friends from so many countries.”
Kinsner collects Presley memorabilia and one of her most prized gifts is an Elvis record given to her by Presley’s live-in nurse Tish Henley, who received it as a gift from the King himself.
She said she will cherish memories in Memphis forever, including spending weeks with people close to Elvis like his personal cook Nancy Rooks.
“During Elvis Week 2016 I was lucky enough to get to hold one of Elvis’s jumpsuits,” Kinsner said. “Later that year, it sold at auction for $325,000.”
She said Presley’s story of achieving success despite poverty stacking the odds against him is a shining example of the American Dream.
“Growing up his teachers told him he couldn’t carry a tune,” Kinsner said. “He was very poor but ended up being an American icon. His legacy is the dream and the hope that if we believe in ourselves and work hard, we can achieve our dreams too.”