Mad Dog's thought for the day: Two things define you. Your patience when you have nothing, and your attitude when you have everything --- author unknown

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“Two things define you. Your patience when you have nothing, and your attitude when you have everthing.“
- Unknown

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Fourth annual Elvis Rocks Mesquite returns 80 miles north of Las Vegas with a full field
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The fourth annual Elvis Rocks Mesquite heads for the Casablanca Resort June 21-22 and Mesquite's own 78 year-old Claude Nielsen will again be one of the event's favorite entries.

       If Sue Arko ever decided to leave the travel and tourism business and move from her home in Gilbert Ariz., she might consider moving to Mesquite.

       After all the energetic native of Elkhart, Ind., spends enough time in this city about 80 miles north of Las Vegas anyway bringing entertainment and visitors. With the fourth annual Elvis Rocks Mesquite scheduled June 21-22 in the showroom of the CasaBlanca Resort, Arko is spearheading an event that combines nostalgia with fascinating entertainment.

         For several years, the president of Free Spirit Vacations and Events and resident of Gilbert, Ariz., blazed a trail in Mesquite starting each February with BransonFest Out West. Four months later, she returns to the CasaBlanca with Elvis Rocks Mesquite again drawing impressive crowd counts during a two-day competition.

      On both counts, BransonFest and Elvis Rocks Mesquite have proven to be incredible economic shots-in-the-arm for the city while also providing wholesome entertainment that has been welcomed with open arms.

     Needless to say, Mesquite prides itself on special events that draw visitors to discover the beauty of the city along with some of the finest golf courses in the country – and promoters working long hours are vital to keep the machine going.

     While Arko is a humble person whose talents are also showcased by special events in Las Vegas and Laughlin, it’s also not hard to find dignitaries in Mesquite who speak highly about the woman and her events.

     “Absolutely, anything that even remotely affects us is a positive fashion is good for Mesquite,” said City Councilman Geno Withelder, who moved to Mesquite from the Bay Area in California 12 years ago. “I have been to her shows and love what she’s doing.”

     As Withelder points out, Mesquite’s connection with I-15 is extremely beneficial considering its close proximity to Nevada, Utah, Arizona and Colorado.

     “We have some very big things on the horizon in Mesquite,” explained Withelder, who is on the run from first thing in the morning to late at night. “We’re working on some things now that could bring 15,000 people to the city.

     “We have a little piece of heaven up here and we want to tell the world about it.”

      In the meantime, Arko keeps pounding the pavement looking to expand her presence in Mesquite while rolling out the red carpet for visitors at the same time. Elvis Rocks Mesquite, which started the result of chance meeting with an executive of the CasaBlanca, is stronger than ever.

      In fact, the first show in 2010 even drew Australian sensation Mark Anthony, who won the event and travels all over the world with a performance that even includes dancers.

      The fourth annual Elvis Rocks Mesquite is expected to be bigger and better than ever.  With talented Elvis Tribute Artists competing in music from the 50s, 60s and 70s in in performances that include all of the King’s most popular music, competition is keen and the end result is one that is appreciated by those in the 500-seat CasaBlanca Showroom.

       Attendance rose 30 percent in 2012 over the previous year and Arko said the 2013 program should be impressive. The event, which undoubtedly could have fit in well in other cities, has become a huge hit in Mesquite.

       “We have established ourselves in Mesquite,” said Arko, a graduate of Arizona State University with bachelors and masters degrees in recreation. “Both BransonFest and Elvis Rocks Mesquite are fun shows and people set their schedules each year for both events.

       “I’m sincerely very proud to be a part of Mesquite and love bringing our shows there each year.”

        Activities will begin June 21st with competition in Best of the 60s from 3-6 p.m. and Best of the 50s from 8-10 p.m. Arko added that 33 performers had signed up for Elvis Rocks Mesquite by the second week of May.

       “We have reached our maximum number of performers for this year,” Arko explained. “We sold out the showroom for the finals last year and I’d say that we’ll have a 20 percent increase in total sales over last year.”

         Among the performers will be Mesquite’s own 78 year-old Claude Nielsen, a retired chiropractor who has been a huge hit in each of his previous CasaBlanca Showroom performances.

        “I have become kind of known as the Elvis of Mesquite,” Nielsen said. “I selected a whole bunch of new songs for this year. For the 50s, I’m going to sing ‘Ole Shep’ along with ‘Peace in the Valley.’

          “The 60s will be a little more fun. I’m going to sing Tonight Is So Right for Love along with “Are You Lonesome Tonight?” For the 70s, I’m going a song written by George Harrison called “Something’. The final song for the ‘70s will be the Rhythm and Blues song “Steamroller Blues.”

          In the Copy Kats segment at the end of the show, Nielson will sing the George Jones song “He Stopped Loving Her Today.”

        Nielsen, who works 40 hours a week on graveyard as a porter at the Eureka hotel casino, is 34 days younger than the late Elvis would have been. On stage, he’s known as “Doc Elvis.”

         Competition in Best of the 70s is slated from 2:30-5:30. The finals along with the always-popular Copy Cats will be presented from 7-11 p.m.

        Tickets are priced from $17-$28 June 21 and are $21-$33 for the June 22 performances plus taxes and fees.

        Further information can be found by visiting and hitting the Special Events category; or by calling Star Tickets at 800-585-3737.

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