Elvis fans to gather in Weston for 14th Birthday Bash
Dianna Busha of Weston is a huge Elvis Presley fan, so much so that she throws a birthday party for him every year and invites everyone to celebrate with her.
The King would have turned 82 this Jan. 8. To celebrate, Busha has organized an Elvis Birthday Bash – the 14th annual – at Dale’s Weston Lanes on Saturday, Jan. 14. Four award-winning Elvis tribute artists have been booked to perform, including Dakota Pongratz of Plover, Nick Miller from Illinois, Curt Lechner from Indiana and Gino Monopoli from Toronto. There will be two shows, at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. All artists will be backed by the Ultimate Legends Band from Milwaukee, who has been part of the event for the past 11 years.
Pongratz, orignally from Stratford, is himself a long-time Elvis fan. He has been in the dancing and singing business as an Elvis tribute artist since 2005. Dakota works for UPS, but performs his Elvis tribute as both a hobby and a part-time job.
He participated in the 2010 Elvis Birthday Bash at Dales Weston Lanes, competed in the Elvis Explosion in Lacrosse, won the 2013 Jimmy Sea’s Elvis Contest in Green Bay, placed first in the 2015 Kings of the Valley Elvis Contest in Oshkosh, and last year he took third place in the Elvis Fest Contest in Necedah.
Pongratz is looking forward to participating in the Elvis Birthday Bash.
“It’s a great honor to entertain all the Elvis fans,” he said, “because without them none of this would be possible.”
Pongratz will perform songs recorded by Elvis in the 1950s, as well as songs from his movies.
To Dakota, the best thing about being an Elvis tribute artist is “definitely the friends you make and fans too, and they are someone you can share your love for Elvis with.”
The night before the Elvis Birthday Bash, on Friday, Jan. 13, Dale’s Weston Lanes will also host a Legends Show at 8 p.m. featuring tribute artists to Diana Ross, Kenny Rogers, the Blues Brothers and Neil Diamond. All of the Legends artists will be backed by the Ultimate Legends Band.
The idea for an Elvis Birthday Bash came to Dianna after she attended a contest for Elvis tribute artists. She then hired a tribute artist to perform at her own birthday party. Deciding to share her Elvis passion with the public, she approached Dale’s Weston Lanes, who agreed to provide the venue.
The first party was held in 2003. From there, the Elvis Birthday Bash has grown into a public event that has attracted as many as 900 people for the weekend. It was expanded to a two-day affair with the addition of the Legends Show six years ago.
“This is just something I do because I love Elvis,” Dianna said. “It just developed over time.”
Thanks to Dianna’s husband, Jeff, an IT professional, the event now has its own website, which helps it reach fans beyond the Wausau area. Elvis fans have come from as far away as Minnesota, Nebraska and Texas to attend the celebration.
“People say it’s better than Vegas,” Dianna said.
Dianna herself travels around the country, taking in Elvis tribute concerts and contests, and finding the talent for their own Elvis Birthday Bash. She’s even served as a judge for Elvis contests.
By her own best guess, Dianna has booked at least 40 different Elvis tribute artists over the past 14 years.
“I try to get new people every year, and I do bring back favorites,” she said.
She even booked a tribute artist who went on to win the Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist title the following year. There is no higher honor for Elvis tribute artists than to win the Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist contest, held at Graceland and sponsored by the Elvis Presley estate.
Dianna has been an Elvis fan for as long as she can remember.
Elvis started his career the year before I was born,” she said. “My sisters used to play all his music.”
Few performers in history have inspired fan devotion quite like Elvis Presley, and Dianna has the memorabilia collection befitting a true Elvis fanatic.
“I have a little bit of a sickness with that,” she jokes, noting that her collection includes Elvis dolls, ornaments, albums, books and even a bowling ball.
She’s also made the pilgrimage to Graceland three times, and is planning a fourth trip for next year, the 40th anniversary of Elvis’ death.
For more information, or to purchase tickets for the Elvis Birthday Bash, call 715-574-0768 or visit www.elvisbash.com.