home about us advertise with us subscribe to Jonesboro Occasions submit an event contact download the 2008 datebook
give a gift subscription

memphis in may
by Mike Overall

During the Month of May, Memphis transforms into an international culinary and entertainment epicenter. The aptly dubbed Memphis in May, a celebratory tradition that has experienced phenomenal growth over the years, is a month-long festival that draws thousands of tourists from across the world. This year’s event, “The Pearl of the Pacific,” will pay homage to the Philippines and will emphasize its rich culture, diversified population and economic status.

The Memphis Salute to the Philippines runs the gamut from the educational to the food and drink indigenous to the “Pacific Pearl.” Exhibits are scheduled throughout the month in a variety of locations; there will be performances that highlight traditions and customs in the Pacific paradise, as well as a bevy of speakers, lectures, photographs, business gatherings and an international tour.

There are many highly anticipated highlights of the month-long festival, including the World Championship International Barbecue Cooking Contest, one of the nation’s oldest, largest and most competitive barbecue showdowns. A legion of masters at the art of barbecuing will set up their cookers and tents along the riverbank from May 17 through 19. Contestants and their teams will grill and smoke their meat for hours on end, turning out everything from whole hogs and delectable spareribs to pork shoulders and other morsels. Sanctioned judges will award prizes to the barbecue and sauces judged the tastiest in a variety of categories.

“It is appropriate that the contest is held in Memphis, which is located in the great Mississippi Delta,” said Herman Greene, a former contest judge. “Many people regard us as the barbecue capital of the world.”

Another big draw is the eclectic Beale Street Music Festival, a showcase of musical happening that highlights the talents of numerous contemporary artists. The festival takes place in tree-lined Tom Lee Park, a spacious and lovely 25-acre site at the foot of Beale on the east bank of the river, and will run from May 4 through 6. Sixty-five artists will utilize three large stages, the Fed-Ex Blues Tent and Southern Comfort’s Blues Shack. An amazing array of musical genres will be performed by a galaxy of stars; among them are Girl Talk, Lupe Fiasco, Breathe Carolina, Megadeth, Florence and The Machine, NEEDTOBREATHE, Al Green, Sponge Cola, Buddy Guy, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Cold War Kids, Jerry Lee Lewis, Allison Kraus and Union Station, The Civil Wars, Herbie Hancock, Bush, The Head and The Heart, Johnny Winter, Jimbo Mathus and The Tri-State Coalition, Grace Potter and The Nocturnals, The Cult, Victor Wainwright, Blind Mississippi Morris, Black Stone Cherry, Charlie Musslewhite, The Nighthawks, Prosevere, Jane’s Addiction and many others. For tickets and information, go to thebealestreetmusicfestival.com.

There will be many other musical guests featured throughout the month, as well. Minglewood Hall, located at1555 Madison Avenue, will feature Social Distortion on May 1, Burning Waco/Losers Way Home on May 10 and Five Fingers Death Punch on May 16. At the Orpheum Theater, located at 203 South Main, vocalist Yanni will take the stage on May 11. The next evening, the theater will place the spotlight on country traditionalist Trace Adkins. Levitt Shell, an outdoor amphitheater in Overton Park that is adjacent to the Memphis Zoo, also has a number of groups on tap this month. For a full schedule, go to levittshell.org.

Memphis in May’s grand finale will take place on May 26; at approximately 8 that evening, the Sunset Symphony, featuring the Memphis Symphony with guest artists, will send music wafting along the mighty river before a throng of thousands of celebrants.

For those in Memphis for the festival, there are a variety of other attractions to enjoy in addition to the Memphis and May festivities. Memphis’ popular night spots number in the hundreds; a few hot spots include Alfred’s, B.B. King’s, Huey’s, Silky’s and Flying Saucer Draught Emporium. Other popular destinations include Overton Park, the Memphis Zoo, the Pink Palace, numerous art museums and shopping centers, the Civil Rights Museum, the Metal Museum and the grand dame of Memphis hotels, The Peabody.

“Southern hospitality and Memphis in May were and are a marriage made in heaven, and this year’s ‘wedding party’ will be the grandest ever,” said Greene.