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Memphis in May International Festival held their 2016 Annual Meeting on August 9 where festival officials reviewed the results of their fortieth anniversary and announced Colombia as the 2017 honored country.

Celebrating Colombia will become the year-long focus of Memphis in May International Festival as the organization begins their forty-first year. Colombia is the fifth country from South America to be honored in the festival’s history. Known for its national parks and lush geography, Colombia has become a growing hot-spot for tourists and is one of only 17 megadiverse countries in the world due to its vast biodiversity. The South American country is a natural choice for the 2017 salute, as Tennessee was the eighth highest exporting state to Colombia last year.

“We are excited to honor such an ethnically and biologically diverse country,” stated James L. Holt, president and CEO of Memphis in May International Festival. “Colombia has a rich and vibrant culture and is emerging as one of South America’s leading economic markets.”

With more than 46 million citizens, Colombia has the second largest population in South America and the twenty-eighth largest in the world. Colombia is home to the third largest Spanish-speaking population in the world, after Mexico and Spain. Colombia is rich in natural resources with major exports including petroleum and coal. Colombia also produces more emeralds than any country on the planet and has a vibrant floral export business. Seventy percent of all cut flowers in the US are exported from Colombia. With the third largest GDP in South America, almost 50 million consumers, and a robust free market economy, Colombia is economically strong.

Each year, an advance trip to preview the honored country is organized. In 2017, Memphis in May International Festival Board Chair Bobbi Gillis and James L. Holt, will lead the trip to Colombia on March 4-11, 2017. For those interested in this trip visit www.memphisinmay.org or call the Memphis in May International Festival office at 901-525-4611 for more information.

In addition to this year’s honored country, the 2017 festival dates were announced as follows:
Beale Street Music Festival: May 5-7, 2017
International Week: May 8–14, 2017
World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest: May 17-20, 2017
901Fest: May 27, 2017
Great American River Run: May 28, 2017

These dates include an extended day for the World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest, while 901Fest and Great American River Run are scheduled to take place on two separate days.

The Tennessee Department of Tourist Development presented Memphis in May officials with a custom art-piece produced locally by the Metal Museum. The metal artwork recognizes the organization’s significant contributions to tourism efforts.

“For 40 years, the Memphis in May organization has produced authentic experiences for a global audience that include the best in live music, world renowned barbecue and international culture. Today, we honor Memphis in May on this fortieth Anniversary milestone, for its outstanding contributions to Tennessee tourism,” stated Brian Wagner, assistant commissioner of marketing, Tennessee Department of Tourist Development.

Mayor Jim Strickland, alongside festival officials, was in attendance to receive the award and to speak to the festival’s fortieth anniversary and important contributions to the city.

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