Loyal MusicFest fanatics already know the ins and outs of trouncing through mud and cutting into mile-long porta-potty lines. But here are some useful hints for first-timers and veteran reminders for the 38-year-old Memphis in May International Festival.
Beale Street Music Festival (May 2 – 4)
- The Lineup features dozens including Kid Rock, the Alabama Shakes, Joan Jett, and the mainstay Jerry Lee “The Killer” Lewis.
- The Stage Schedule becomes your bible as you’ll be forced to make painfully difficult decisions like seeing either Foster the People or Snoop Dogg.
- Tickets! Sellouts are possible. Single one-days start at $35+
- Drinks? Mostly SoCo, sodas, and run-of-the-mill beer.
- Park anywhere downtown and walk, bus, or Trolley to Tom Lee Park. Expect to pay at least $20 the closer you get. Tip: Line your floor boards with newspaper for your muddy footprints.
- I personally take taxis. Call Omar and you can disco your way downtown with party lights and a mirror ball.
- Rain gear: Locals call it “Memphis in Mud” for a reason. Pre-purchase some wellies because the city oddly sells out. Guys: Try Home Depot, Lowe’s, Outdoors Inc., and Bass Pro. Ladies: You have many more options; start with Target.
- Where’s Waldo? The crowd is so dense that you WILL get separated and cell service will be dicey. I suggest setting old-fashioned meeting places and times upon arrival. And I highly recommend gaudy, blinking apparel. My crunk, Superman glow necklace reunited us last year.
Salute to Panama (May 5 – 11)
- Brush up on your Spanish greetings because music-loving Panamanians will descend on the town expecting your hospitality.
- Viva Panama!, the main attraction, will feature a night of jazz and Central American cuisine at the Orpheum on Thursday, May 8.
- Art installations and Panama Canal historical exhibits will be on display all month at the Dixon, Rhodes College, Mud Island, ArtsMemphis, and more.
World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest (May 15 – 17)
- America’s Most Prestigious BBQ competition will take over the bluff and you can literally pork out.
- Tip: Know that it’s mostly private tents and teams, however, if you hang around ’til the weeknight evenings and have a friendly smile, you might score an invite.
- 2nd Tip: If you’re dying to crash some tents, just seek out Stephanie Bennett, Vance Gamble, or Elle Perry. They’re kind of a big deal.
- Want to be a judge but lack a law degree? Well, for $60, you can taste, vote, and be sucked up to by 250 barbecuers. (The judging deadline came early, but good to know for next year.)
- The Ms. Piggie Idol Contest will take place Thursday, May 15 at 6 p.m. It’s a snort-worthy revue of pop culture, satire, and elbow ribbing by the teams themselves.
Sunset Symphony (May 24)
- This is the traditional finale to MIM. It starts at 3 p.m. and features the Navy Band, STAX students, an air show, the Memphis Symphony Orchestra, and fireworks on the water.
- The event is budget and family-friendly, and picnic baskets are welcome (more FAQs).
- Your rite of passage to becoming a local is hearing a rendition of “Ol’ Man River” on the Mississippi at sunset.