For Kevin Hoops of Grain Valley, Friday night on the Independence Square couldn’t have been better.

For Kevin Hoops of Grain Valley, Friday night on the Independence Square couldn’t have been better.

The sky was fair, the breeze was cool, and the stage was alive with a presence thought dead Aug. 16, 1977.

“Elvis. This brings me back,” said Hoops, tossing back a last swig of Bud Light before throwing it into a trash can. He offered his hand to his wife, Cheryl Hoops. “Would you like to dance, honey?”

The two swung around and around, staring into each other’s eyes as “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling” fluttered from the main stage, where Independence resident Bobby Simkins was singing with a warble warranting the studs on his jumpsuit.

“What a way to kickoff Santa-Cali-Gon,” said Emily Braton, head of marketing and communications for the Independence Chamber of Commerce, the organization that sponsors the five-day event, which opened Thursday with the annual carnival on the southern most part of the Square.

Simkins & Heartbreak Hotel was the opening act with Change of Heart (a Heart tribute) and Liverpool (Beatles tribute) to follow Friday evening.

“In the five years I’ve been planning this festival, I’ve never seen an opening act this big,” Braton said. People young and old were packed shoulder to shoulder around  the main stage. It was standing room only.

“Bobby’s got a great hometown crowd that follows him,” Braton said. “We knew he’d deliver.”

Braton said the nice weather could bring record crowds; a torrential downpour Thursday night didn’t put a damper on attendance.

“The carnival was still a big hit,” Braton said. “The rain didn’t hold us up at all.”

According to Braton, the expectation of good weather throughout the weekend is one of the reasons why all the booths and spaces under the vendor tent are sold out.

“We’re completely full, and it’s awesome,” Braton said.