World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest evacuated due to weather

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — On the first day of Memphis in May’s World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest, Tom Lee Park briefly had to be evacuated as storms passed through the Memphis area.

In a tweet around 7 p.m., Memphis in May organizers announced a mandatory evacuation and directed festival goers to seek shelter.

For about 45 minutes, many stood outside the barricades on Riverside Drive as other people arrived only to find they wouldn’t be admitted.

“It’s for safety, I mean, everybody understands what’s going on. I mean, no one’s really upset,” said attendee Ben West.

But some couldn’t help but vent their frustrations.

“This is ridiculous. It happens every year,” said Matt Thomas, who traveled from Arizona to cook on a barbecue team.

“There’s a couple of lightning strikes over there, a couple of lightning strikes over there… evacuate the park, oh my God. The sky is falling,” he said.

WREG emailed festival organizers to seek clarification on exactly which weather conditions they were concerned about, but hasn’t received a response.

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