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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Tourism officials are optimistic for the impact of Memphis in May and Beale Street Music Festival returning to Tom Lee Park for the first time since 2019, but say they expect a somewhat smaller crowd.

Hotels are in the demand, but unlike in years past, there appear to be several vacancies. We asked Kevin Kane, president of Memphis Tourism, about that.

“As I tell people, it may not be the largest numbers of Memphis in May attendees in the history of the festival, but it doesn’t matter, Memphis in May has a tremendous economic impact,” Kane said of this year’s events.

Historically speaking, Beale Street Music Festival has been a profitable event for the city of Memphis and its trend that officials hope to continue.

Over the next three days, tens of thousands of music lovers will flock to the Bluff City for Music Fest, and tourism officials say it’s a positive sign.

“It’s great to be back,” Kane said. “It has a tremendous impact economically on Memphis and Shelby County. The hotels are very busy. There’s people here from, literally, not only around the country, from all over the world.”

Since Tom Lee park remains under construction, organizers have limited the attendance and moved one of the stages to Beale Street to make up for lack of space.

Earlier this year, Memphis in May was still in negotiations with the Memphis River Parks Partnership over the festival’s lease agreement for the park.

As recently as February, MIM president and CEO Jim Holt told city council members the negotiations might put the festival “in jeopardy.”

But by this week, Holt was praising the park’s recent redesign, despite its smaller space for events.

“It’s a beautiful park,” Holt said. “It’s a little smaller than it has been in the past. … but it’s gonna be that wonderful, majestic vista of the Mississippi River, and fans are really looking forward to it.”

Kane believes the changes this year will make a difference in attendance, though he remains optimistic.

“I haven’t seen the numbers yet. I’m anticipating that this weekend is going to be fewer people than what we had years ago pre-pandemic, mainly, cause we got a late start this year, as far as, booking bands and where was it gonna be, was it going to be in Tom Lee Park? Or was it going to be someplace else?” Kane said. “We lost a little momentum.”

The gates officially open at 5 Friday evening, and folks have already started lining up so you definitely want to give yourself extra time, if you are heading this way.