Memphis in May is a true Tennessee celebration

Cristina Peralta

Apr. 29, 2016


There’s a popular episode from Aziz Ansari’s hit Netflix comedy Master of None where Ansari’s character takes a date on a trip to Nashville. The trip ultimately goes well, and they have a great time dancing and thrift shopping and doing cutesy hipster stuff. But, with all due respect to Nashville, we can only imagine how much more fun the episode would have been if they took a slight detour to Memphis instead. Particularly in the month of May.

While all nonprofit organizations do work to better their communities, few do it quite like Memphis In May International Festival. The community-based group goes big and bold like a Tennessee rack of ribs, hosting a series of righteous festivals and events during the month of its namesake.

Festivities begin with the star-studded Beale Street Music Festival from April 29-May 1. This year’s lineup features some of the biggest names in music, from Neil Young and Paul Simon to Meghan Trainor and Jason Derulo. The festival was named among Travel + Leisure’s “2016 Music Festivals Worth Traveling For” and listed among Fuse TV’s “Top 22 Music Festivals for 2016.”

“Beale Street consistently brings forth one of the most eclectic festival lineups we see year to year. It’s a huge advantage to be able to catch such a wide variety of acts in one weekend, so if you’re looking for one festival to take in and you have scattered tastes, this might be the one for you,” Fuse TV notes.

We couldn’t have said it better ourselves. Beale Street Music Festival starts today. Tickets, if you haven’t grabbed them yet, are on sale here.

But that’s just the start.

Each year, Memphis In May honors a different country with a weeklong series of cultural events at community centers, museums, performing arts centers and schools throughout the city. This year—the 40th!—the organization pays tribute to our well-mannered northern neighbor during the 2016 International Salute to Canada. From May 2-9, you can catch contemporary circus show Traces, learn about Canada’s Passion for Skating in a world-class exhibit, see Art from the Canadian Arctic, and more. Someone phone Drake and tell him to take in some views from The River City.

Absorbing all that Canadian culture is sure to have worked up an appetite. Luckily, the 39th annual World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest kicks off May 12-14. Holding a Guinness World Record as the biggest pork barbecue contest, this year’s events include the Big Hog Run, a concert by “Wild Thing” rapper Tone Loc, and the Ms. Piggie Idol competition, where contestants dress in pig outfits and sing and dance for the title. Buy tickets here, but don’t tell your vegan friends. Feel free to eat to your stomach’s discontent because…

After you’re done pigging out, you can work it all off during the Great American River Run half-marathon or 5K on May 28. The inaugural event features a run along the Mississippi River with live entertainment along the route and a post-race bash on the river bluff with music, food and drinks.

If you buy a ticket to the run, you also get free admission to the 901Fest, also on May 28. The local music celebration features four stages with performances by the North Mississippi Allstars, Dead Soldiers, Al Kapone, Opera Memphis, and more.

Altogether, Memphis in May International Festival’s programs account for a $70 million impact to the local economy. Not only does it foster civic pride and give visitors a real taste of Memphis, but it builds relationships with foreign countries, too. So the next time you want to make a lasting impression on someone, take them to Memphis instead—especially in May.

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