A group of 30 visitors from the United Kingdom will follow their dream and search for the legacy of Elvis in Crystal River, Inverness and other nearby locations of the 1962 Elvis Presley film Follow That Dream beginning August 17th. “People in Britain still absolutely love Elvis,” says David Wade of the Elvis Travel Service and StrictlyElvis.net. Wade and Carol Pugh bring large groups across the Atlantic regularly to see the sights of Elvis Presley’s life. This year, after the must see visits to Memphis and Tupelo, one group is heading to the Plantation on Crystal River Resort, home base for tracing the steps of Follow that Dream.
In all, 32 people are making the trip. But don’t expect to see anyone in Elvis costume. “You’ll find our clients see Elvis differently than many Americans,” says Wade. “They are not interested in Elvis impersonators and Elvis kitsch at all,” he explains, “in fact, it’s offensive. To us, Elvis is a serious musician and actor, one of the landmark artists of the twentieth century.” He points out that a recent pairing of Elvis’ vocal tracks with orchestration by the London Philharmonic went straight to number one in the UK immediately upon debut.
The film Follow that Dream was shot on the Central Florida Gulf Coast in the summer of 1961. It was unique among Elvis Presley’s films in a number of ways. It was the only Elvis film actually based on a book, Richard Powell’s 1959 novel, Pioneer, go Home! “It’s also unique because very few of Elvis’ films were intensively shot on location like this one was,” says David Wade. “A lot of the work for the other films was done on sound stages in Los Angeles, with only cameos and cutaway shots made on location.”
Many locals still remember Elvis staying at the Port Paradise Hotel (today’s Port Hotel & Marina in Crystal River), or tossing a football with the local kids on Courthouse Square in Inverness between takes. The historic Courthouse in Inverness served in a dramatic court battle scene. “The court room still looks just as it looked in the film,” say Katherine Turner Thompson of the Old Courthouse Heritage Museum. The beach in the film was a man-made beach especially created for the movie at the end of a road in nearby Yankeetown, Florida. The road is now called Follow that Dream Parkway. “They couldn’t keep the palm trees they brought in alive,” comments Wade, “so they just painted them green to make them look right.”
Elvis Travel Services Follow that Dream tour will visit almost all the locations used in the movie including the Valerie Theatre, right across from the Courthouse in Inverness, where the film crew and Elvis reviewed daily takes. The tour itinerary includes plenty of time to relax and, of course, the opportunity to do something many travelers come here to do: Swim with the manatees Crystal River is famous for. “We’re really looking forward to it,” says Wade, who scouted all the locations over a year ago, “these are such stunning surroundings.”