A memorial marking the 35th anniversary of Elvis Presley's death is displayed outside of Graceland.
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MEMPHIS -- Thousands of devotees converged on Graceland to mark the 35th anniversary of Elvis Presley's death and got a surprise welcome from the King's former wife and daughter, the first time Priscilla and Lisa Marie Presley have appeared together at the annual gathering.
The two women appeared on an elevated stage in front of the crowd Wednesday night, the eve of the Aug. 16 date when the rock and roll icon died at home in 1977 from a heart attack after battling prescription drug abuse.
Fans held up lit candles, illuminating their faces in orange light as they stood in the street outside the gates of Graceland, Elvis' longtime home and his burial place.
"You should see this from our point of view. It's amazing," Priscilla Presley said, standing alongside Lisa Marie. "The candles are lit. It's truly a sight to behold."
The two women stunned the crowd with their unexpected appearance. It was the first time both of them had appeared together at the annual gathering.
Later, fans who participated in the vigil moved up the tree-lined driveway to the right of the mansion, where the gravesite is located near a swimming pool. Heart-shaped wreaths made of red and white flowers lined the entrance to the site.
Mourners walked slowly through the tomb area, their candlelight casting shadowy figures against a stone wall.
Priscilla Presley, left, and Lisa Marie Presley, speak to fans gathered at a candlelight vigil Wednesday at Graceland.
Some teary-eyed fans laid flowers on the gravesite, where Presley's father, Vernon, mother, Gladys, and grandmother Minnie Mae Hood Presley also are buried.
"This is something that Elvis would never, ever have believed could have taken place here," she said.
Elvis admirers from around the United States and the globe have flocked each anniversary to Graceland to celebrate his life and career. His abrupt death at 42 shocked legions of fans still mesmerized today by his singing, sex appeal and on-stage charisma.
The vigil, which was set to run through Thursday morning, marked the high point of Elvis Week, an annual celebration of Presley's life and career. Organizers said about 75,000 people were expected by authorities to take part in the vigil.
Lisa Marie Presley told the fans she loved them for their devotion to her father. She also acknowledged she had shied away from making public appearances at past anniversary vigils.
"I've always avoided this because I felt that it would be too emotional, but I really felt it was important to come down here tonight," the singer's daughter told the crowd. "I love you very, very, very much."
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