MEMPHIS, Tenn. — While the closing of the I-40 bridge has created a mountain of problems in Memphis, there is something to smile about downtown by the river.
After a COVID-imposed hiatus, the Memphis in May World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest kicked off at Tom Lee Park. Wednesday was set-up day for teams who are anxious to get meat on the grill.
The pandemic forced Memphis in May to cancel last year‘s barbecue contest, and this year’s will be noticeably a little different.
“It will be a bit smaller festival,” said Randy Blevins with Memphis in May. “We have daily capacity limits. There are fewer cooking teams. We have 136 cooking teams, whereas in the past we’ve had 200, 230 teams before.”
That means teams will have larger spaces and be spread out a little more.
“COVID compliance ambassadors” will be out encouraging participants to wear face coverings when not eating or drinking.
With that in mind, the competition still promises to be fierce.
“When I get to a barbecue contest I want to get there with good wood, sharp knives, fresh rub, good sauce and good meat” said Tuffy Stone of Richmond, Virginia.
Stone and his Cool Smoke team are the 2019 barbecue contest grand champions. As a chef and caterer, he’s glad to be back in Memphis and anxious to forget the past year.
“A lot of my dear friends that are from all over the country, normally all over the world, I get to see down here every may. So being back down here is good medicine for me,” Stone said.
Tickets aren’t being sold at the gate and because of reduced capacity, you need to go to memphisinmay.org to buy your ticket. Download your ticket, print it, and you’re good to go.
Tickets are going fast. Friday is sold out.