Grounds maintenance at Graceland depends on Grasshopper
Aug 07, 2009
MOUNDRIDGE, Kan. – The weeks leading up to Elvis Week are some of the busiest of the year for the grounds crew at Graceland in Memphis, Tenn. In addition to their normal grounds maintenance duties they are called upon to assist the building crews in preparing for the huge number of Elvis Insiders and other devoted fans that converge on Graceland for special events scheduled the first and second weeks in August.
Graceland’s complete line-up of Grasshopper mowers.
How do they have time to get everything done? They use Grasshopper mowers and implements year round to keep the grounds looking their best for the many visitors, according to Jimmy Gambill, maintenance manager for Elvis Presley Enterprises. “We’ve got it down to a science to keep Graceland and its surrounding lawns looking nice every day of the year.”
Gambill’s uncle bought the first Grasshopper for Graceland in the late ’80’s, a chain drive model with a collection system to pick up leaves that fall from the many sweet gum, sycamore, pecan, magnolia and oak trees. He wanted the yard to look vacuumed and the Grasshopper bagger system produced the well-groomed appearance he was after.
Approximately 1/3 of the visitors to Graceland are from outside the U.S. including this group from Finland who stopped at Graceland after visiting the Grasshopper factory in Moundridge, Kans. Hautala Service Oy distributes Grasshopper mowers and implements throughout Finland.
Today a fleet of four Grasshopper mowers manicures nearly 14 acres around the mansion plus other lawns and median areas spread out across asphalt, islands and horse stables with over 25 acres mowed every 4 to 5 days. They keep the grounds looking as beautiful as they were in 1999 when Graceland was featured as one of the Top Ten Lawns in the United States. (One of the others chosen to be recognized that year by Briggs & Stratton was the Rose Bowl!)
The PowerVac™ Collection System remains an important part of their operation with one 720K equipped with Model 15 for quick clean up every day of the year. It saves them a lot of time to be able to “head out and vacuum the yard” whenever it’s needed. With hundreds of daily visitors it’s an on-going task to keep the lawn free of debris. And when the many shade trees around the mansion drop their leaves in autumn the grounds crew adds collectors to two more units so they can keep up with leaf removal while they mow.
Fall and spring are also seasons for reseeding. While the Bermuda grass that is thick and heat-resistant during the summer is allowed to go dormant in cold weather, the lawn under the trees is reseeded with fescue twice a year to stay green year round. Using Grasshopper's AERA-vator™ in those areas makes the soil permeable and improves the results they get when reseeding. The best part is that the public never notices a disruption in the appearance of the lawn.
Another implement they use every day is a Model 729 with a turbine blower to clean sidewalks, drives and parking lots. The combination really proved its worth in the aftermath of a powerful storm, unofficially dubbed “Hurricane Elvis,” that swept through Memphis in August 2003. It took two weeks to restore power to over 330,000 people in the area but the grounds at Graceland were cleared of a smothering blanket of twigs and other debris in two and a half days. Working systematically with the Grasshopper and turbine blower, the grounds crew moved all the debris to one side where it could be removed. Gambill estimated it would have taken a week and a lot more manpower to accomplish the clean-up without the Grasshopper and blower.
Gambill speaks of the people at Graceland as being like a big family and in his case it is literally as well as figuratively true. He grew up playing on the grounds of Graceland, not realizing the significance of the place or its owner to the many fans who now flock there. He takes seriously the responsibility he has assumed in caring for the grounds of his uncle's beloved Graceland for nearly 30 years and for over twenty of those years he has relied on Grasshopper for the “performance, durability, reliability and accessories” that make it easier for him to do his job well.
About Grasshopper The Grasshopper Company is a privately held corporation dedicated solely to the design and production of commercial and large-acreage mowing and grounds maintenance equipment. Grasshopper introduced the first zero-turn radius mower with dual swing-out levers in 1969, and other industry firsts include the first diesel-powered zero-turn radius mower in 1983 and the first electric-actuated fold-up mower deck in 2004. Based in Moundridge, Kan., the company distributes its products worldwide and is committed to lean and clean manufacturing practices reducing impact to the environment.
This release is for information only and not to be reproduced, reprinted or distributed to the public in any form. Photos used by permission of Elvis Presley Enterprises.