MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Memphis In May on Tuesday reported another record financial loss this year for the city’s largest annual festival.

Attendance at the Beale Street Music Festival fell to its lowest level in over thirty years at
37,805, and attendance at the World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest dropped to 39,625.

That amounted to a loss of $3.48 million for the 2023 festival, surpassing the previous record loss of $2.23 million set last year.

Festival leaders were clear on where they placed much of the blame for the losses this year.

“The return to Tom Lee Park was marred by difficulties including: obtaining a lease with the
Memphis River Parks Partnership, problems with access to the park, restrictive use of
essential park features, designs not meeting agreed-upon specifications, and a park with
40% less useable space,” MIM said in a news release. “Despite those challenges, fans who attended the events celebrated their return to the riverfront, enjoying a new atmosphere of energy and excitement in the new park.”

MIM President and CEO Jim Holt said the festival will reinvent itself for next year. A recent survey of barbecue festival team members indicated they support a move to Liberty Park.

“Memphis in May is no stranger to rebounding from adversity, so we will do what we must. Announcements about the 2024 festival events, dates, and venues are forthcoming within the next seven to ten days.”

Memphis River Parks Partnkership manages Tom Lee Park, and recently oversaw a $60 million park renovation, The revamped park has won praise for its design, but MRPP charged the festival more than $1 million in damages after this year’s festival.