As tens of thousands of Elvis Presley fans flocked to Graceland to mark the 35th anniversary of the death of "The King Of Rock And Roll," Presley's ex-wife and daughter gave their thanks to his supporters for keeping the iconic entertainer's memory alive.
Elvis' ex-wife, Priscilla Presley, said her husband never would have never imagined that throngs of people would visit Graceland so many years after his death. Presley died at age 42 on Aug. 16, 1977, with drug abuse a contributing factor in his declining health.
"I know this is something Elvis would never ever have believed would have taken place here," Priscilla said to the more than 75,000 Elvis fans who participated in a Graceland vigil Wednesday night, AFP reported. "You know this: he loved his fans, and this is proof that you love him... We thank you very, very much for all that you do to keep his legacy going on and on and on."
The vigil runs until Thursday morning, and organizers told media outlets that they expected over 75,000 Elvis fanatics to attend the event. That would break the record 75,000 fans who showed up to mark the 30th anniversary of the death of "The King."
Elvis Presley's daughter, Lisa Marie Presley, also appeared at the vigil and spoke briefly to the thousands in attendance at Graceland. Lisa Marie, now 44, was 9 years old when her father died.
Lisa Marie said she declined to attend previous vigils because of her father's death still hits her hard, but she made an exception on the 35th anniversary.
"I've always avoided this because I thought it would be too emotional but I really felt it was important to come down here tonight," she said, according to the Associated Press. "I love you very, very, very much."
Elvis fans from around the world participated in the vigil, including Sergio Galleguillo of Argentina.
"I felt the spirit of Elvis there, as if he was alive," Galleguillo told the AP after walking past Presley's grave. ""It really was a beautiful experience."
The vigil is part of "Elvis Week," a nine-day extravaganza featuring Elvis impersonators that culminates with a concert showcasing gospel and blues acts - genres that influenced Elvis' music career.
"We tell people, if you haven't come to Elvis Week, you won't ever understand why we're here," Texas resident Janet Mathis told AFP.
Among the Elvis admirers were Barbara Humphreys and Marynelle Vickers, natives of Memphis - Presley's adopted hometown - who saw "The King" in person during a 1961 trip to Graceland.
Humphreys and Vickers said nobody tops Presley, including teen heartthrob Justin Bieber.
"I can assure you, when he (Bieber) is gone, there will never be people standing in line like this," Vickers told AFP.
Priscilla Presley, who was divorced from Elvis in 1972 but remained close with him, opened Graceland up to the public in 1982. She said she never envisioned how Elvis fans would consider the Memphis spot hallowed ground.
"I mean, when we opened (Graceland) in '82, we had no idea that we'd, you know, (we knew) we'd have some visitors, but not to this extent," Priscilla told NBC. "I was told Elvis passed and that, you know, will be forgotten in the next couple of years -- life goes on. Thank God I didn't listen to any of those people."