MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Memphis in May is returning to Tom Lee Park this year.

That’s the official word from the festival’s President and CEO Jim Holt as the lineup for the Beale Street Music Festival is released. Headliners include GloRilla, Robert Plant, Alison Krauss, and Earth Wind & Fire.

As the lineup for the music festival is unveiled, there is a sense of excitement that Memphis in May will return to the iconic Mississippi riverfront. Last year the festival was held at Liberty Park in Midtown due to the ongoing construction on the riverfront.

 The festival’s President and CEO Jim Holt says the return to Tom Lee Park is important. 

“It’s absolutely crucial. Quite honestly, five months ago, I wasn’t sure we were going to be back,” he said. “We came with something very big. We wanted to re-establish our footprint back downtown.”

Holt cited concerns about delays in the construction of the major, multi-million-dollar revamp of Tom Lee Park. But he commends Mayor Jim Strickland for sticking to his word that the festival would return to the riverfront.  

Holt notes the events will now be hosted in a smaller space. 

“We’ve lost about 40% of the space that we typically would utilize for the festival and that’s going to cause a reduction in the capacity for the music festival and a reduction in the number of competition teams that will be able to participate in the World Championship Barbeque Cooking Contest,” he said.

The flat terrain Tom Lee Park was once known for is no more. We asked about the concern of damaging the new additions to the space.  

“The park has been heavily programmed with a lot of infrastructure, foliage, plantings, and other items. But MRPP is fencing off a lot of that which further restricts our space for usage, but we’ve got a plan in place to make sure that the park is protected. It’s a major investment for the city,” Holt said.

Memphis River Parks Partnership, which runs the park, told City Council last week that capacity does not need to be cut by 40 percent and that as many as 55,000 people can be on the lawn at any time.