Have You Ever Actually Been to the Memphis in May International Festival?


It’s a conversation I had today with a good friend who has lived in the city of Memphis for her entire life.

“Have you ever actually been to the Memphis in May International Festival?”  (She had not).

I thought I’d pose the question to YOU today as well –

“Have you every actually been to the Memphis in May International Festival?”

I have been to the festival in the past; however, it’s been a long time since I’ve personally taken part in the festivities and events.

But I have a childhood friend who lives downtown and volunteers each year at the festival.

She thoroughly enjoys the month of May in Memphis.

Her name is Stacy Taylor, and I interviewed her in preparation for this blog article and to gain a better perspective about this well-known event.

Here are some of the questions I posed to Stacy:

~ What is The Memphis in May Festival? (What’s the big deal about it anyway?)

~ Where does it all take place?

~ When it is – what are the dates?

~ What is there for families, kids and anyone to do/enjoy?

~ How much does it cost?

~ Why should people take part?

This article will attempt to answer all of those questions and hopefully give you and your family some helpful information about one of our city’s most famous and well-attended events.


Question One What is The Memphis in May Festival?

Here is how my friend Stacy describes the Memphis in May Festival:

“Memphis in May is truly one of Memphis’ crowning events that draws people from all over the country. There are few boundaries where race, religion, culture, food, and music are limitless.

It’s an event that can excite people from all walks of life. I found that getting involved and volunteering offered me an opportunity to get hands-on experience, and an opportunity that would educate me, open my eyes, and help me embrace one of the many things Memphis is about.

All proceeds go toward the international programs to enrich and educate the world about good music, great food- Memphis Style.” (Picture from MIM website).


According the Memphis in May Website, this event is about,

“Bringing the world to Memphis and Memphis to the world.”

“The organization, which began 38 years ago with a modest budget of $52,000 has grown to become a 7.0 million dollar non-profit organization, which is recognized across the country and around the world as one of North America’s leading festivals.”  (http://www.memphisinmay.org)


This event:

  • Generates more than $70 million in economic impact.
  • Improves the quality of life in the region.
  • Promotes tourism like no other event in the city.
  • Develops diversity and cultural pluralism.
  • Remains Memphis’ largest and most dynamic consumer event time and time again. (http://www.memphisinmay.org/memphis-in-may-info)

Basically, the Memphis in May Festival consists of FOUR BIG EVENTS:

~ May 1-3, 2015 – Beale Street Music Festival (3 days of music).

According to the website:

“The 2015 Beale Street Music Festival marks the 39th anniversary of the festival which each year attracts music enthusiasts from all 50 states and a dozen foreign countries to the storied city where rock-n-roll and blues music all began. ZZ Top photo from MIM site.


Over the past decade the festival has attracted over 1.1 million music fans to the multistage three-day event, best known for its eclectic mix of contemporary rock, blues, soul and modern talent and its musically inspired setting. The festival is held in a beautiful 25 acre riverfront park at the foot of historic Beale Street overlooking the mighty Mississippi River.”  (http://www.memphisinmay.org/bsmf-info)

You can find out who is performing this year by going to this link: http://www.memphisinmay.org/bsmf-lineup


~ May 4-9 – International Salute to the Country of Poland.

During the month of May, the entire city of Memphis will salute Poland through exhibits, music, performances, cuisine, speakers and lectures and an international gala. Much is happening throughout the city to education and celebrate Poland.



According to the website: 

“Memphis in May International Festival believes that education is an integral part of any festival. International awareness is at the core of the Memphis in May International Festival’s commitment to the education of the Mid-South community, children and adults alike. Each year, the area’s youth immerse themselves in the culture of our honored country through our curriculum guide, student competitions, international exchanges, and more!

While Memphis in May International Festival fosters the education of an entire community, our focus begins on the youth of the area. Memphis in May’s goal: by the time a student graduates from high school, they will have had the opportunity to experience the customs and cultures of 13 different countries from around the world.

Each year, Memphis in May accomplishes this goal through an extensive and diverse youth education program offered to every student and school in the Memphis and Shelby County area, including over 200 city and county schools, dozens of private schools, and a very active home school association.” (http://www.memphisinmay.org/education)

If you are interested in discovering more about Polish Exhibits, you can access this link: http://www.memphisinmay.org/international-exhibits

For more info about Polish Performances, you can click here: http://www.memphisinmay.org/international-performances


If you’d like to know more about Polish Cinema, you can link here: http://www.memphisinmay.org/international-cinema

For more about Polish Cuisine, check this link: http://www.memphisinmay.org/international-cuisine-wines

If you are interested in Polish Lectures and Speakers, link here: http://www.memphisinmay.org/international-speakers-lectures

And, if you’d like to find out more about the International Gala, you can access the link here: http://www.memphisinmay.org/international-gala


~ May 14-16 – Memphis in May World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest

“Memphis in May’s World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest is May 14-16, 2015 at Tom Lee Park.


Every year, hundreds of teams compete for over $111,000 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. There is also a t-shirt competition as well as a best booth contest.” (http://www.memphisinmay.org/barbecue)


You can find out more about this event by linking here: http://www.memphisinmay.org/world-championship-barbecue-cooking-contest

~ May 23 – AutoZone Sunset Symphony Grand Finale

“The 2015 AutoZone Sunset Symphony will end its 39 year run with a Grand Finale Celebration that includes a spectacular performance by the Memphis Symphony Orchestra, several special guests, and an expanded fireworks event. The Sunset Symphony Grand Finale will take place on May 23, 2015 in Tom Lee Park.” (http://www.memphisinmay.org/azss-info)


Tickets to the 2015 AutoZone Sunset Symphony Grand Finale are $10 and will be available to purchase at Ticketmaster.com on Thursday, March 12.


Sunset Symphony is the closing scene of MIM. The Blue Angels, Navy Band, fireworks, and many other family friendly attractions draws people from all over Shelby County. It’s a night to remember and a very rich tradition with MIM. This is my friend Stacy pictured in the blue shirt.

Question Two – Where does it all take place?

Everything is in Downtown Memphis with most events taking place right on the river in Tom Lee Park.

If you haven’t ventured downtown in awhile, you should know that things are looking good. Things are cleaner, more well-lit, safer and just better.

Much effort, money and energy has been spent to make our city look and feel better. The month of May might be a great time for you and your family to venture out into the city.


Question Three – When it is – what are the dates?

~ May 1-3 – Beale Street Music Festival

~ May 4-9 – International Salute to Poland

~ May 14-16 – World Championship Barbecue Festival

~ May 23 – AutoZone Sunset Symphony Finale


My friend Stacy volunteering at the Beale Street Music Festival. She says about this photo, “Working backstage with Joan Jett and Kid Rock. Many people are often only familiar with musicians through tabloid and entertainment gossip but one thing I have learned is that MIM allows people from all over the tri-state area, suburbs, and even abroad to experience a variety of musical genres.”

Question Four – What is there for families, kids and anyone to do/enjoy?

When I posed this question to Stacy, here is how she answered:

“In my experience with MIM, I have found that the entire family can also experience the many exciting events it offers.

Music, food, people, art, shopping, the river, culture, downtown Memphis, warm weather, and many other things are served generously to those who try it out. There is something for all ages.”


When deciding if any of the festivities are for you and your family, you might want to at least check out the Memphis in May website: http://www.memphisinmay.org

One event that we’ve enjoyed and may try to catch this year is the Sunset Symphony at Tom Lee Park. This is like a giant family picnic complete with music, great river views, and fireworks.

Here is the way the website describes the event:

“Memphis in May closes a great month with its oldest event –  AutoZone Sunset Symphony! And this is one fabulous finale. Enjoy an entire day of family entertainment on the banks of the Mississippi River. Spread out a blanket, bring the lawn chairs and pack a picnic, because this is an all day family reunion! 

The day opens with music from local performers, followed at 6pm by a spectacular air show from the Commemorative Air Force. The show features vintage WWII and concept aircraft such as the Corsair, Hawker, Stearman and Russian Yak. Watch as the pilots perform amazing aerial stunts and multiple high-speed fly-bys. As the sun sets, the stage is set for the smooth sounds of the Memphis Symphony Orchestra performing. 

As the sun goes down, the skies light up with a spectacular fireworks show, sponsored by Bank of America, orchestrated in part with the Symphony performance.You’ll look over the river in awe of this magnificent show! AutoZone Sunset Symphony…a day of  family fun in the park…an exciting Air Show by the Commemorative Air Force…a legendary performance the lush sounds of the Memphis Symphony Orchestra…and fireworks illuminating downtown Memphis. Truly this is a perfect way to end a perfect May!” 

You can find out more at: http://www.memphisinmay.org/symphony-faqs



Question Five – How much does it cost?

Each event has different tickets and prices.

~ For the Beale Street Music Festival, tickets are $30-$45 for one day,  $80-100 for a weekend pass.

~ For the International Salute to Poland exhibits, cuisine, cinema and more, you will need to check the website for prices.

~ If you’d like to take part in the World Championship Cooking Contest, you can enjoy the event for around $10 for a day or $475 for a VIP pass. You can find out more on the website.

~ You can get your tickets to the Sunset Symphony for $10 at ticketmaster.com.

You can find out much more at: http://www.memphisinmay.org


Question Six – Why should people take part? Why does it matter that we attend?

According to my friend Stacy:

“It’s an event that can excite people from all walks of life. I found that getting involved and volunteering offered me an opportunity to get hands-on experience, and an opportunity that would educate me, open my eyes, and help me embrace one of the many things Memphis is about.”

Go for the educational experience.

Go to support your city.

Go to help, to volunteer and to give back.

Go to reach out to the community.

Go to see what it is all about.

Go to enjoy music, food, great weather and a fun month of festivities.

Go because you live in the “901” area code.

Go because you have never been before.

Just Go.

We hope to enjoy some of the festivities this year for Memphis in May. I do hope you and your family will be able to as well.

Special thanks to my sweet friend Stacy – for her many volunteer hours, for her service to our city and for all of her pictures and great information.


Memphis in May is almost 100% dependent on its trained volunteers. MIM is a non profit event and was voted according to Rolling Stone Magazine as one of the top 10 music Festivals. This was my 2nd year to be awarded a debut (volunteer) award for outstanding achievement and service. I clicked in over 100 hours. Most volunteers have the great privilege of bridging their own culture and style with musicians from all over as well as become lifelong friends with BBQ champions.

Thanks especially, Stacy, for allowing the love of Christ to compel you to love others so well.

Your kindness and compassion has touched and continues to impact many lives~


~ I regularly link to these AMAZING SITES~



~ Most of the photos in this story were provided by my friend Stacy Taylor. If not from her, I got them from the official Memphis in May site for 2015.

© Melanie Redd and Ministry of Hope, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Melanie Redd and Ministry of Hope with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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Blessed wife of Randy for over 25 years, mom to two great college students, blogger, women's ministry coach, speaker and author who is amazed by God's grace-

2 thoughts on “Have You Ever Actually Been to the Memphis in May International Festival?

  1. Don’t forget the Barbecue contest also has the cookers caravan that gives free tours where teams give tours of their booths. Also the Kingsford Tour of Champions where you can try teams bbq in their booth and vote on the best.

    Neil Gallagher
    Team Captain
    Too Sauced To Pork Barbecue Team

    1. Hey Neil,

      Thanks for stopping by and sharing the info about the contest.

      Sounds like the free tours would be much fun! (and tasty)

      Hope you and your team do well in the contest!

      Blessings to you,

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