The groundbreaking ceremony for Graceland Randers on June 15 this summer caught medias attention and was quickly picked up by news agencies around the world. That a copy of Elvis' mansion was going to be built in little Denmark was obviously big news.
My curiosity aroused, I recently telephoned Henrik Knudsen, one of the guys who runs the Elvis Unlimited shop and museum in Randers, and asked him a couple of questions about this incredible project.
Elvis Today: How did you get the idea to build a copy of Graceland in Randers, Denmark?
Henrik Knudsen: Five years ago we held a meeting where we talked about how to market our shop and raise it to another level. My American girlfriend came up with the idea, and we all agreed that was the way to do it.
Elvis Today: How true to the original will the building be?
Henrik Knudsen: Standing outside, looking at it, it will be clear to one and all that it's modeled after Graceland. Stepping inside, it will have our own set-up, obviously. That said, there will be elements reminding the visitor of the real thing, like the staircase leading to the upper floor, which will be built in a similar style and color. That also goes for the cinema in the basement, which will have some elements resembling those in Elvis' TV room.
Speaking of the different floors, the basement will include our museum as well as the cinema, where 25 people at the time will be able to watch a documentary about Elvis specially made for Graceland Randers. Moving up to the first floor, it will situate an Elvis shop to the left and an American diner done in Hard Rock style to the right, decorated with memorabilia associated with Elvis as well as other icons like Carl Perkins, Buddy Holly, Dolly Parton and the likes. The second floor, finally, will feature a hall that can seat 200 guests, and be used for weddings, celebrations, conferences, birthdays and so on. It can also serve as room for art exhibitions and small concerts.
Elvis Today: How did you obtain the drawings for the building?
In January last year, architects from the firm we're working with, traveled to Memphis to measure Graceland and get a feel for the place and the kind of attraction it is. While they were busy measuring with a folding rule I heard one tour guide telling another "And I thought I had seen it all." Obviously, that thought us very hard core fans (laughs).
Elvis Today: What have the reactions been from the media so far?
Henrik Knudsen: Overwhelming and exceeding all expectations! We've been in every newspaper in Denmark as well as on national television. The Guardian has done a story about us, as has The New York Times. And we've been interviewed by BBC World. Fans keeps sending us press clippings, the latest ones from The Korea Herald and a paper in Malaysia.
Elvis Today: Speaking of the fans, what do they think about a Graceland in Denmark?
Henrik Knudsen: The support we've received has been enormous and means a lot to us. And fans from Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Germany, all over Europe in fact, have e-mailed and asked how they can obtain tickets for the opening next year.
Elvis Today: Any word from Elvis Presley Enterprises?
Henrik Knudsen: We haven't received any greeting card or anything. But a year ago, when I met Priscilla in Memphis, I told her about the project and asked her if she would sign a photograph that I could hang on the wall in Randers. She agreed and signed it "To Graceland Randers :-)".
Elvis Today: You are building Graceland outside the town of Randers. What do the local authorities have to say about it?
Henrik Knudsen: Actually, they have been enormously positive, and helped us find a suitable building site, located at the corner of two major roads. I hope one of them will be renamed "Elvis Presly Boulevard" but we'll see about that (laughs). Even today, a lot of tourists come hear to visit our shop, 95 per cent of them driving one hour or more. And with a Graceland in Randers we will be hundred times more important for the tourism, would be my guess.
Elvis Today: So when will the building be completed?
Henrik Knudsen: According to plan Graceland Randers will open at Easter next year. Until then it'll be possible to follow the project on our website. And we'll soon have a web camera operating showing the construction taking place.
Elvis Today: Thank you so much for taking the time talking to Elvis Today, it's a fascinating project.
Henrik Knudsen: Yes, the whole project has been and still is a fantastic journey and the challenge of my life. Graceland Randers is our tribute to Elvis with what we hope will amount to approximately 50 000 visitors during the first year of operation. It's going to be a giant attraction in Elvis Europe!