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"The Wheelie-ing Elvi" reflect on beginnings, road to growth

"The Wheelie-ing Elvi" reflect on beginnings, road to growth

Bobby Ornelas, “The World Famous Wheelie-ing Elvi” leader, 60, poses for a portrait June 25 at the Shorthorn studio. The Wheelie-ing Elvi started with a few guys who decided to ride their Honda Z50s around a Fort Worth neighborhood in a Marilyn Monroe wig and a Mexican sombrero.

"The World Famous Wheelie-ing Elvi" started with two members who decided to ride their Honda Z50s around a Fort Worth neighborhood in a Marilyn Monroe wig and a Mexican sombrero.

The next year, the group recruited some friends, decorated their rock star-styled jumpsuits and called themselves the "The Wheelie-ing Elvi." 

The Wheelie-ing Elvi was started in 1997 by Fort Worth residents Chris Watson and Craig Knight.

The group decided to change their focus to dressing as Elvis Presley because he is a strong symbol for rock and roll and raised the standard, former UTA student Bobby Ornelas said.

“[Elvis was] bigger than life and loved by the world,” he said.

Presley was a famous singer and is an icon of music and pop culture. Presley gained his popularity and fame in the mid-1950s and is one of the most recognized names in rock and roll history. Fans were drawn to Presley’s unique musical style, dancing style and looks.

Celeste Shepard, wife of current member Fred "Greg" McLaughlin, said being able to emulate that same spirit and giving soul that Elvis puts out drives them to continue to perform.

“I think that that, for them, is what really drives them,” she said.

Ornelas carried on the group when the last original, Steve Utter, left. In 2003, Ornelas changed the name from “The Wheelie-ing Elvi'' to “The World Famous Wheelie-ing Elvi.”

He said if people in different countries knew about them, he considered the group world famous.

The group started with an interest in the Honda Trail Z50 hardtail minibikes. The bikes were a classic and popular at the time.

The Z50 is a 50cc mini trail bike series that was produced by Honda in 1968. The bikes were known as “Monkey Bikes” and led to the minibike boom in the ’60s. Honda stopped hardtail production in 1971.

Around 2009 to 2010, the group continued to expand and performed in parades all across the state, including the State Fair of Texas’ Opening Day Parade and the Arlington Independence Day Parade.

The group has always been popular because they had the enthusiasm and energy to do the events.

“They see you in that white jumpsuit, that wig, those glasses and on this bike, and they think you can do everything,” Ornelas said.

Elvis, a new biographical musical drama, premiered June 24. The movie explores the early life and music of rock and roll artist, Elvis Presley, and his rise to fame.

A few of the group members were excited for the movie, some even suggested they go watch the movie in their costumes and wig.

Fred "Greg" McLaughlin, Arlington resident and current group member, captured the attention of many people at the movies when he decided to show up to the new Elvis movie dressed in his Presley jumpsuit and wig.

“Two or three more people came up and [were] like ‘Elvis, we got to take your picture. That’s so cool,’” Shepard said.

The group currently performs in parades across the Metroplex because it’s becoming challenging for members to travel across the states due to being older.

“It’s difficult to go any further than this area because guys are in their 50s and 60s,” Ornelas said.

Ornelas said that he hoped that they would generate a second generation of guys that are in his group, with their kids wanting to continue "The World Famous Wheelie-ing Elvi." 

The group currently has 22 active members and is still recruiting.

Arlington resident Marty Goin is the newest group member, joining in 2018 and staying on since.

Goin saw the group perform at multiple parades and was interested in becoming an Elvi.

“It’s not that we do anything extravagant,” Goin said. “We just bring the fun and get the crowd pumped up.”

news-editor.shorthorn@uta.edu

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