Memphis in May International

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Memphis in May 2022

Salute to Ghana May 1-31

Beale Street Music Festival April 29 – May 1

World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest May 11-14

Great American River Run May 28  


The Memphis Fairgrounds will be the 2022 location for the Beale Street Music Festival, and the World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest.


Memphis in May has made arrangements to temporarily move the two signature events in 2022 to make way for planned construction in Tom Lee Park. Both events will return to their Tom Lee Park home in 2023.


The Memphis Fairgrounds was selected because of its unique size, uninterrupted layout, existing infrastructure and the public's familiarity as a long-time entertainment location. Barbecue fans will remember when the World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest was moved at the last minute to the Fairgrounds in 2011 during the big flood on the Mississippi River.


The Great American River Run will be held in downtown Memphis and along the riverfront with the start/finish line on historic Beale Street.


2021 Memphis in May International Festival Dates
World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest May 12 – 15, 2021
Great American River Run May 29, 2021
Salute to Ghana May 1-31, 2021 - Cancelled
Beale Street Music Festival Moved to May 2022



World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest and Great American River Run are on, Beale Street Music Festival is moved to 2022, Ghana salute is pending


MEMPHIS, Tenn., December 18, 2020 – Due to the continuing threat of COVID 19, adjustments have been made to the 2021 Memphis in May event calendar as the effects of the pandemic is expected to extend into the spring.


World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest will proceed as planned May 12-15, 2021 with strict COVID19 protocols in place. The World Championship will be somewhat different and smaller with capacity restrictions that may be in place at that time. Team applications are now open.


Great American River Run is set for Memorial Day Weekend, May 29, 2021 with COVID19 protocols in place. Adjustment for the run will include a rolling start to space runner with staggered start times. Runner registration is now open.


Beale Street Music Festival will be moved to May 2022. The move is due to the nature of the event, gathering thousands of fans in front of stages and falling earlier in the calendar. Large scale music festivals and concerts remain deeply affected by the pandemic across the globe. Memphis is no exception, and any large gatherings may not be possible until much later in the year. The health and safety of our fans, teams, runners, volunteers, staff, sponsors, vendors, and the public are always our top priority.


“We are disappointed with the postponement of the Beale Street Music Festival to 2022, but we feel we cannot safely replicate the experience that our fans know and love with the potential COVID 19 restrictions.” said James L. Holt, President & CEO of Memphis in May International Festival, “However, because of the nature of our other two Tom Lee Park events, we are confident that we can safely present the World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest and the Great American River Run with adjustments for COVID.”


The international Honored Country Salute to Ghana, slated for May 2021, faces significant challenges because of the global pandemic. The nature of the salute is based on bringing people and cultures together for a meaningful exchange, which is problematic because international travel has been severely reduced and visa processing halted since March in addition to other COVID 19 concerns.


“It is our desire to present a salute befitting the great nation of Ghana and share it’s wonderful culture with Memphians.” said Charles Ewing, 2020 & 2021 Memphis in May International Festival Board Chair, “We are aware that a change will be necessary because of the pandemic. We are in communication with Ambassador Adjei-Barwuah of Ghana in Washington, D.C. as well as officials at the U.S. Embassy in Accra and a decision on how best to proceed will be made by the Board of Directors in January.”






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Committee Selection


The Communications Committee volunteers are responsible for two vital on-site roles, the first is the maintenance and inventorying of communications equipment and the second is to be an information hub for vendors, staff, volunteers, and emergency services.

Festival Services

Festival Services volunteers are the public face of Memphis in May and provide patrons with information about activities.  Volunteers assist staff with executing various auxiliary events, including staffing VIP areas.

Great American River Run

The Great American River Race Half Marathon and 5K is a Memorial Day weekend running event that will pay tribute to past and present servicemen and women. The course will route runners along the banks of the mighty Mississippi River and through downtown Memphis.  A fully staffed "Race Team" comprised of individual volunteers, groups and organizations is critical to the success of the race.    

Honored Nationals

Each year, Memphis in May taps in to the local ethnic community of the honored country.  Individuals and community groups from the honored country’s community are encouraged to join the volunteer ranks to support the celebration of their country.  


Hospitality is a month long committee, which caters to the bands and manages the backstage areas for all of Memphis in May’s events: Beale Street Music Festival, World Championship Barbeque, and Sunset Symphony.

International Education

The committee assists the Memphis in May Education Department in the development of education programming which includes the Children’s Art Poster, International Competitions, World Cargo Crate, as well as the Curriculum Guide. Volunteers also assist securing local host families for students from the honored country and securing staff for the Education Awards Ceremony and the annual International Teacher’s Conference. 

International Programming

Cultural Programming volunteers work closely with Memphis in May staff in the implementation of the International Week which includes installation of exhibits at museums, performance at the Orpheum Theater and  culinary tastings at local venues. Additionally, this committee is responsible for the transportation and hospitality for our honored country’s personalities and performers. Volunteers provide transportation and accompany the honored country’s personalities and performers to meals, shopping, job sites, and local attractions.


Logistics plays an essential role in surveying and marking the locations of event structures and spaces according to the pre-set event map.  The majority of the Logistics Committee’s responsibilities fall around the week leading up to the World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest.  During that time, committee members mark off the team spaces.

Office Resources

Volunteers with Office Resources assist the Memphis in May staff with vital event related communications.  Committee members are involved with all facets of the festival and are essential to its success.


The Production Committee is responsible for the majority of the pre-event creation and maintenance of Memphis in May materials.  Production is also responsible for assisting in site preparations and solving last minute event issues.


Volunteers with this committee assist in the implementation of the Festival recycling program. Volunteers work in sorting recycled items, assisting in waste diversion and changing bags in the receptacles when needed.


The Transportation Committee is responsible for control of vehicular access into Tom Lee Park and parking areas inside the festival gates.  This includes media, vendors, performers, VIP’s and emergency personnel.

Volunteer Services

Volunteer Services is responsible for supporting the onsite volunteer committees.  Responsibilities for this committee include for Volunteer Check-in, filling gaps in other committees, and preparing/serving food.

WCBCC Administration

The World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest (WCBCC) Administration Committee and the Volunteer Event Chair are responsible for ensuring a smooth WCBCC event.  Individuals in this committee are responsible to complete set-up and decorating the Judging Tent and Judge’s Hospitality. Additionally, volunteers support the Memphis in May staff and other committee leadership before, during, and after the WCBCC.  Members must develop a full knowledge of volunteer, WCBCC, and event rules and regulations.  

WCBCC Contestants

This committee will act as event ambassadors to the teams by providing information and assistance to the teams participating in the World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest (WCBCC).  The second responsibility of the Contestants Committee will be the implantation of contestant registration.

WCBCC Judging

Judging Administration volunteers aid in the implantation of the World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest (WCBCC) judging system.  Volunteers help to receive submission boxes from teams and maintain the integrity of the judging process.

WCBCC Programming

This World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest (WCBCC) committee will assist in the implementation of Kingsford Tour of Champions judging contest and Cooker Caravan.

Mission Statement

The Memphis in May International Festival is a month-long celebration that includes the Beale Street Music Festival, the World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest, the International Honored Country Salute, Celebrate Memphis and the Great American River Run as well as educational programs that feature each year's honored country.

The mission of Memphis in May is to promote and celebrate Memphis culture, foster economic growth, and enhance international awareness through education.