Barbecue contest to kick off a smaller Memphis in May this year

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Beale Street Music Festival wasn't possible this year, organizers say

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — In just one week, Memphis in May will return with the World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest

It’s going to look and feel different than in years past, but as the event begins to take shape, organizers are ecstatic they get to host the event at all.

There will still be plenty of music played, drinks poured and various meats prepared but Memphis in May is allowing for more space and fewer guests than in the past, creating what they believe will be a safe barbecue experience.

“Masks will be required, just the general common sense covid precautions that we’ve all grown accustomed to,” said Randy Blevins, vice president of Marketing and Programing with Memphis in May.

It’s a welcome return for Memphis in May, which will also host the Great American River Run later this month.

But noticeably missing from this year’s events is Beale Street Music Festival. Organizers say, between challenges with booking artists and hosting packed concerts, it just wasn’t possible.

“The nature of a large concert, where you have 50,000 people gathering in front of a stage and still packing people into one point, the world’s just not ready for that yet,” Blevins said.

Memphis in May organizers estimate they lost $1.8 million dollars by cancelling the event in 2020, along with around $130 million of business and tourism the city missed out on.

While Memphis in May won’t be back at full strength this year, it’s a crucial part of the recovery process.

“This is like our bridge year,” Blevins said. “Something we can do to keep the ball rolling, keep everything going, kind of oil the machine a bit, give the citizens something to do, something that’s exciting as well.”

Tickets need to be bought in advance. The first day of Barbecue Fest is next Wednesday, May 12.

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