Text by Andrea Cranford
May is a magical time in Memphis. It is the momentary respite between the city’s rainy spring and the suffocating heat of the summer. It’s also the month Memphians and tourists gather together for the largest party of the year. The Memphis in May International Festival hosts three of Memphis’ most celebrated events: the Beale Street Music Festival, the World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest and the Sunset Symphony.
“We are expecting one of the largest crowds ever for our Beale Street Music Festival and we have a stellar line-up that offers something for every musical taste,” says Jim Holt, Memphis in May President & CEO. “Five of our BSMF artists have been featured on network television shows this week alone.”
For almost 40 years the Beale Street Music Festival has been one of the hallmarks of Memphis in May. In the last decade, over 1.1 million people have attended the three-day event that combines old school rock n’ roll and blues with modern artists right at the foot of one of the most iconic streets in the world.
Some major names from this year’s festival lineup include Sheryl Crow, ZZ Top, The Black Keys, Hall & Oates, The Smashing Pumpkins, Gavin DeGraw, Dwight Yoakam, Public Enemy, and of course, Jerry Lee Lewis, among others.
Memphis loves its barbecue as much as it loves music, and the World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest is where the faithful gather each year in Tom Lee Park to experience barbecue at its best. Over 250 international teams gather to compete for more than $110,000 in prize money and the coveted title of World Champion.
Along with its wonderful events Memphis in May also provides an opportunity to learn about a new culture. This year, the festival honors the Kingdom of Sweden. Memphis in May provides school programs that educate local students about Sweden as well as events throughout the month that showcase the cuisine, people and accomplishments of the featured country.
Holt says one such program is a fabulous Swedish cultural show to be held at the Orpheum Theater on May 9. Entitled “Sweden on Stage,” the program features the music, dance and cuisine of Sweden – the first Scandinavian country ever to be honored by Memphis in May.
“The Brooks Museum is also featuring an outstanding exhibit on Swedish design entitled ‘Made in Sweden: 20th Century Design’ this year,” adds Holt.
Memphis in May culminates with the Sunset Symphony, the oldest event of the festival. As the sun sinks behind the banks of the Mississippi River, visitors to this family-friendly event are serenaded by the Memphis Symphony Orchestra and treated to a riot of beautifully colored fireworks—the perfect finale to a magical month!
Memphis in May 2013 dates to remember include the Music Festival May 3-5, the Barbeque Cookoff May 16-18, and the Sunset Symphony on May 25.