Memphis in May looks ahead to 2017

Cristina Peralta

Oct. 13, 2016

2016 was a big year for Memphis in May International Festival. The monthlong civic celebration turned 40; upped the game with its Beale Street Music Festival with acts such as Neil Young, Beck, and Paul Simon; added new events—a 5K and a one-day local music showcase—to its already stacked programming; and, most importantly, had an estimated local economic impact of $88.1 million.

While he couldn’t reveal the specifics just yet, Jim Holt, president and CEO of Memphis in May, says 2017’s festivities will be even bigger (see the key dates below).

“We’re looking onward and upward,” Holt says. “Each year we endeavor to enhance our programs, activities, and events to increase the scope. We’ve got some surprises for people next year. We start breaking activities in December/January. We’re planning to increase the amount of elements at our events for next year. We’re very excited for [what] we’ve got in store for our customers.”

Holt’s team is just beginning to book talent for Beale Street, the largest and most notable event of the month. He wouldn’t drop any hints, but said he’s “very excited about some of the acts that are playing next year.”

Each year, Memphis in May partners with a different country for an extensive cultural program. For 2017, the festival has selected Colombia as its partner. “It’s a very exciting, dynamic, and vibrant country with a rich heritage and history,” Holt says. “It should be an exciting salute to them in 2017.”

Last year, Memphis in May held 38 different cultural, educational, and economic development programs for 2016 honoree Canada. Holt plans to have a similar number of activities in regards to Colombia.

One of the largest civic festivals in North America, Memphis in May instills pride in its city like no other. “We not only celebrate a foreign country each year, we also celebrate the history and heritage of Memphis itself, [a city] known for its rich musical heritage and tradition, “ Holt says. Guests should break out the bibs, too: “We’re also known as the barbecue capital of the world, which we highlight and salute during the World Championship Barbecue Contest,” he adds.


Economically, the festival helps support a total of 1,100 full-time employment positions in Memphis, as well as attracts international visitors and media attention. “It’s a big driver on a lot of fronts for the city of Memphis,” Holt says.

Holt, who has worked for Memphis in May for 18 years, credits Ticketfly for aiding in the festival’s groundbreaking success in 2016—the first year we partnered with the company.

“We’d been with Ticketmaster for 25-plus years. We were looking for a more nimble, more marketing savvy ticketing company,” Holt says. “We thought Ticketfly had the superior platform among the various ticket providers we reviewed and we were very happy with the support we received.”

“To me, the Pandora tie-in was icing on the cake,” Holt adds. “It was a big element as far as providing expanded marketing exposure for our event.”

Holt says that the transition to Ticketfly, done in a 72-hour period, was seamless.

“To make that switch, we thought there would be a little turbulence and some bumpiness with consumer acceptance, and it was just astounding,” he says. “Tickets went on sale as if no change had ever occurred—just smooth as silk. I was very impressed with the seamless transition to Ticketfly. The marketing team and promotional assets that Ticketfly brought to us were very effective and potent.”

Find some key dates and activities below. We can’t wait to find out more about what Memphis in May has up its sleeve for 2017 and look forward to another fruitful year of partnership!

Beale Street Music Festival: May 5-7
International Week: May 8-14
World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest: May 17-20
901Fest: May 27
Great American River Run: May 28

For news and updates about Memphis and May, visit

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