Memphis In May Festival

Page was last changed Jan 17th, 2019 @ 17:07:49

Memphis In May is a month long festival and the 2012 festival will be it's 36th anniversary.

The festival itself is split into four main events:

  • The Beale Street Music Festival - The kick-off event which showcases a mix of local and national music acts.

  • International Week - A group of events dedicated to the country that is sponsored that year. The 2012 festival is sponsoring the Philippines.

  • The World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest - One of the most popular barbecue contests in the country.

  • Sunset Symphony - A night of classical music.


2012 line-up, rumours, news and our predictions

  • The Beale Street Music Festival:

The line-up for The Beale Street Music Festival will be announced on the 28th February 2012.

WikiFestivals will bring you all the details as soon as they are released.

  • International Week:

This year's Memphis in May Festival's theme will be dedicated to the Philippines.

  • Sunset Symphony:

The Schedule for Sunset Symphony will be available soon. WikiFestivals will update you with details as they are released.

2011 Line-up and past line-up highlights:

  • The Beale Street Music Festival:

Ke$ha, Jason Mraz, Stone Temple Pilots, MGMT, Cee Lo Green, Mumford & Sons, Macy Gray, Cage The Elephant, plus many more.

For more details on the 2011 line-up and information about the International Week and Sunset Symphony, click here.

More information on past line-ups, click here.


Memphis In May has a great party and fun vibe which attracts everyone from music lovers, families, to students and food fanatics.

There's a carnival feel to the festival too.

Memphis In May is also a great way to experience lots of diverse cultures and backgrounds all within on festival rather than having to go to different ones.

History and facts

  • Memphis In May has been running since 1977.

  • The World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest had a small start in 1978, with only 26 teams, it grew rapidly. The contest drew 50 teams in 1979, 80 in 1980, and 180 teams from nine states in 1981. It has now grown to be the largest pork barbecue competition in the world. More than 250 teams from over 20 states and several countries compete and an estimated 90,000 people attend the competition. Media from around the world including the BBC and The Food Network, come to the Memphis to cover the WCBCC.

  • Only two countries have ever been showcased at the International week - The Netherlands and Japan.

Music stages and other entertainment

The Beale Street Music Festival is a three day music festival that has both a mix of big-name stars performing side by side with local musical acts. Held during the first weekend of May in the city's Tom Lee Park at the foot of Beale Street, it is considered to be the kick-off event of the entire Memphis in May celebration. It typically hosts 100,000+ people for each of the first two nights of the event, and usually quite large crowds for the ending big-name finales on Sunday night.

  • International Week & The Educational Program:

Every year Memphis In May sets its theme around a different country. A week of events and publicity, starting the day after The Beale Street Music Festival, is dedicated to this country and it showcases the local foods and entertainment of that country. While International Week provides a learning experience for the community at large, the core is a comprehensive educational program for area youth in public and private schools and home-schooled students throughout Memphis and Shelby County. The goal of International Week is for area students to have had the opportunity to experience the customs and cultures of different countries from around the world by the time they graduate from high school.

  • The World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest:

Hundreds of teams compete for over $110,000 in prizes and supreme bragging rights. Teams adorn their areas with elaborate decoration, trophies attesting to their boasting rights, and as one can imagine, clever and creative team names. While grilling is the main theme, the contest wouldn't be complete without the Ms. Piggie Idol competition where the finest swine tests their vocal skills, and grown men dress in tutus and snouts and women kick their heels (hooves) up.

  • Sunset Symphony:

The Sunset Symphony is usually an event held on a single stage at Tom Lee Park during the Saturday evening of the last full weekend in May. The concert is the largest annual performance event of the Memphis Symphony Orchestra and serves as a closing event for the Memphis In May festivities.

On site information

Noise Volumes:

The noise volumes can get loud the closer you are to a stage, so it's advised to take ear plugs in case you stand near a speaker or close to a stage.


Memphis In May Festival is held at the start of the USA's summer. So for those who are not used to the USA heat, summer clothing and sun protection is advised. However it can get cooler in the evening/night so warm clothes should be brought too.

As the weather is always unpredictable, waterproof clothing should be taken just in case. But the best thing to do, is to check the weather before going to get a better idea of what the weather will be like.

Festival Times:

  • The Beale Street Music Festival is held from 4th May to 6th May 2012.

Gate opening times will follow shortly on WikiFestivals.

  • International Week runs from the 7th May to 12th May 2012.

  • The World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest is held from 17th May to 19th May 2012.

  • Sunset Symphony is on the last Saturday of the festival, 26th May 2012. The entertainment usually starts at 3pm and goes on till 9pm where the event is finished off with a fireworks display.


There is no smoking inside the venues, however smoking is allowed in any outdoor area.

Cash Machines:

There are cash points located around the festival and city of Memphis. It's advised that you bring enough cash into the festival and it would save you queuing and missing out any of the acts/events.

Merchandise & Programmes:

There are a number of stalls located around the festival site selling Memphis In May Festival, band and event merchandise and programmes.

Bringing Your Own Alcohol:

Festival goers are not permitted to bring in their own alcohol into any of the festival events. There are stalls and bars located all round the festival and the city.

However for those who are attending Sunset Symphony, are allowed to take their own alcohol as long as it's kept inside their picnic basket or cooler. No glass bottles are allowed though.

General bins and Recycling bins:

There are plenty of general and recycling bins located around the festival site.


Toilets are situated in various locations around the festival site.

Food and drink

There a numerous food stalls and bars around the festival site and city offering a range of cuisines and a variety of alcoholic and soft drinks.

Remember to bring your ID as as bar staff have the right to ask for proof of age when revellers purchase alcohol.

Drugs at the festival

Drugs are strictly prohibited from the festival. Anyone found with or using illegal drugs will be removed from the event and will be prosecuted .

Camping and other accommodation

There is no camping at Memphis In May Festival but there are plenty of hotels located around the city within short distances of the events.

  • Madison Hotel: Downtown, 79 Madison Ave., Memphis, TN 38103 - Tel: (901)333-1200

  • Holiday Inn Select Downtown 160 Union Avenue, Memphis, TN 38103 - Tel: (901)525-5491

  • Holiday Inn Select Memphis 5795 Poplar Ave., Memphis, TN 38119 - Tel: (901)682-7881

  • Marriott Memphis Downtown 250 N. Main St., Memphis, TN 38103 - Tel: (901)527-7300

  • Sleep Inn at Court Square Downtown, 40 N. Front St., Memphis, TN 38103 - Tel: (901)522-9700

  • Crowne Plaza Hotel Memphis Downtown, 300 N. Second St., Memphis, TN 38103 - Tel: (901)525-1800

Location and travel

Memphis In May Festival is held in the USA city Memphis, Tennessee.

The Beale Street Music Festival and The World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest is held at the Tom Lee Park.

By Car

Memphis is easily accessible by car. Routes 40, 22, 69 and 55 can be used to travel to and from Memphis.

By Coach

The Greyhound run coach services all over the USA and have routes that travel to Memphis.

By Train

AmTrak run services throughout the USA and stop off in Memphis.

By Plane

Revellers can fly into Memphis International Airport or to neighbouring cities where they can get transfers to Memphis.

Festival contact and ticket information

  • The Beale Street Music Festival:

Weekend Tickets:

Tier 1: $55 (plus booking fee) - 3 Day Pass - SOLD OUT

Tier 2: $65 (plus booking fee) - 3 Day Pass - Limited number left

Tier 3 $75 (plus booking fee) - 3 Day Pass - Once these have sold out, single day tickets have to be purchased for each day.

Single Day Tickets:

Advanced - $35.50

At the Gate - $40

VIP Experience Package:

Without parking - $550

With parking - $650

  • The World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest:

Single Day Tickets:

Advanced - $8

At the Gate - $9

VIP Experience Package:

Without parking - $395

With parking - $495

  • Sunset Symphony:

Single Day Tickets:

Advanced - $8

At the Gate - $9

VIP/Tables - $500

To book tickets or for more information, click here.