Thank you for a fantastic 2016! We will begin announcing our 2017 Festival dates in August

Volunteer with Memphis in May

Volunteer registration for the 2017 festival will begin with our Volunteer Expo at the Memphis Botanic Garden on February 9, 2017. Please stay tuned for more info. 

Volunteer Committees


International awareness is at the core of Memphis in May International Festival’s commitment to the education of the Mid-South community, children, and adults. The committee assists the Memphis in May Education Department in the development of educational programming which includes the Children’s Art Poster, International Competitions, World Cargo Crate, and the Curriculum Guide. Volunteers also staff the Education Awards Ceremony and the annual International Teacher’s Conference. As an education volunteer, you will support Memphis in May’s goal of giving students the opportunity to experience the customs and cultures of different countries from around the world.

Committee Areas:

  • International Competitions - Volunteers help recruit judges and encourage participation in these competitions. The goal of the competitions held throughout the school classrooms is to see which best depicts the honored country. The competitions include the Children’s Poster Competition, the Creative Writing Competition, the Best Classroom Competition, the Best School-wide Salute Competition, and the PowerPoint Design Competition.    
  • Education Awards Ceremony - Volunteers assist in coordinating set up and assist in staffing the annual Education Awards Ceremony, where prizes are awarded for the International Competitions.
  • International Teacher’s Conference - Volunteers may assist the Education Department in the planning, implementation and staffing of this yearly event which is held at the Teaching and Learning Academy. The conference is open to teachers and education professionals from Memphis, Shelby County, private schools and home schools. The conference provides teachers with information on how to utilize international studies to enhance their curriculum. Teachers gain knowledge about the honored country so they can teach their students about the rich culture and history of the honored country.  Those in attendance are offered CEU credits or flex hours for their attendance by their school board representatives.    


Cultural Programming volunteers work closely with the Memphis in May staff to implement the International Salute which includes installation of exhibits at museums, cultural performances and culinary tastings at local venues. International Programming volunteers have a rare opportunity to meet artists from around the world.  Committee members are Memphis in May’s good will ambassadors and show off our historical city. Volunteers greet international visitors at the airport and escort them to their hotels.  They make sure the performers are comfortable with their surroundings.  Volunteers deliver schedules, welcome packets and provide reliable transportation to our guests. They also accompany guests to events, meals, schools, local attractions and on shopping excursions. 


  • Exhibit Installations - Volunteers assist unpacking and installing exhibits from the honored country. The layout for the exhibit will be pre-set by MIM staff or the artist.                   
  • George Hunt Art Tent - Volunteers help with the art sales tent at the Beale Street Music Festival. Volunteers interact with festival patrons, show them the artwork and assist the artist with poster signing.      
  • Gala - Volunteers assist setting up items, running errands, decorating and/or assembling the auction display for the International Gala.       
  • Cultural Performance - Volunteers greet guests as they arrive and help prepare for international food sampling (depending on the venue, volunteers will set up serving trays or tables). Volunteers may also assist with pre-event VIP functions.
  • In-School Performances - Volunteers assist with onsite set-up and presentation of international activities in Memphis city and Shelby County schools.  
  • International Artist Transportation - Committee members are Memphis in May’s good will ambassadors. They greet international visitors at the airport and escort them to their hotels.  They make sure the performers are comfortable with their surroundings.  Volunteers deliver schedules, welcome packets and provide reliable transportation to our guests. They also accompany guests to events, meals, schools, local attractions and on shopping excursions. Transportation scheduling is accomplished by the committee leadership and MIM staff.


Each year, Memphis in May taps in to the local ethnic community of the honored country.  Individuals and community groups from the honored country’s community are encouraged to join the volunteer ranks to support the celebration of their country.

Committee Areas:

  • International Event Support - Volunteers assist the international committees by providing translation, awareness of the honored county’s language and customs, and fill any gaps in volunteer roles.        


The Communications Committee is a small group of volunteers responsible for two vital on-site roles. The first is helping with maintenance and taking inventory of communications equipment. The second is to be an information hub for vendors, staff, volunteers, and emergency services.

Committee Areas:

  • Command Post - The command post is the hub of in-park communications. From this location all radios are distributed and monitored.
  • Pork Forkers - Fork lift-experienced volunteers assist WCBCC teams with moving materials and placing barbecue rigs and trailers during WCBCC load in and load out.


The production committee is responsible for the majority of the pre-event creation and maintenance of Memphis in May event equipment and materials. The Production Committee is also responsible for supporting site preparations, installing banners and signage and solving last minute event site issues.

Committee Areas:

  • Pre-Event Building - Volunteers build festival items such as tables, a-frames, info booths, decks, and various other festival items.  
  • Pre-Event Set-Up - Volunteers assist the Operations staff set up each of the events during the month of May.  Set-up includes such items as signage, banners, decking and tables and chairs.        
  • On-Site Event Assistance - Volunteers assist the Operations staff by solving small issues during event days by hanging fallen banners, move plywood, lay decking and flooring, etc.    


The Transportation Committee is responsible for controlling vehicular access into each event and Tom Lee Park including the parking areas inside the festival site on all event days.  This includes media representatives, vendors, performers, VIP’s and emergency personnel. The volunteers also control and monitor the golf cart program.

Committee Areas:

  • Golf Cart Compound - Volunteers are responsible for assisting with vehicle distribution and control on and around Memphis in May event days.
  • Vehicle Access to Tom Lee Park - The Transportation Committee is responsible for assisting with the control of vehicular access into Tom Lee Park. This includes media, vendors, performers, VIP’s and emergency personnel. In conjunction with the contracted security company, volunteers communicate with Memphis in May staff regarding the vehicles looking to acquire access to the event site.
  • WCBCC Load-in/Load-Out - Volunteers will direct the teams to their team space for load-in and assist departure during load-out. Each team should unload the vehicle and exit the park as soon as possible to reduce congestion.


Hospitality is a month long committee that provides food service to the performers and manages the backstage areas for all of the Memphis in May events. The committee is also responsible for upholding a high level of professional service and maintaining food service areas and trailers.  Previous food service experience is required.

Ernest Harper, Committee Chair



Logistics plays an essential role in surveying and marking the locations of event structures and spaces according to the event map. The majority of the Logistic Committee’s responsibilities are during the week leading up to the World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest.  During that time committee members mark off all of the team spaces and tent locations.

Committee Areas:

  • Stake Out - Volunteers mark out key operational points and WCBCC contestant spaces by layout created based on Memphis in May map and marking team number on stakes.
  • WCBCC Load-in Monitoring - Observe WCBCC load-in and respond to any issues teams have with their preassigned space. Monitor teams for moving beyond their predetermined space and report any abuse to Memphis in May staff for resolution.


Festival Services volunteers are the onsite, public face of Memphis in May and provide the event patrons with pertinent information and hospitality services at each event. Volunteers assist the staff with executing various activities such as manning the information kiosks and the membership areas.

Committee Areas:

  • Information Booths - The information booths are a main point of contact for the event patrons. Each information booth is equipped with park maps, schedules of events, light(s), event programs and ponchos (if available). Volunteers greet patrons, answer questions and distribute programs in addition to reporting any emergencies to the Command Post.
  • BSMF & WCBCC VIP - Volunteers set-up and manage each VIP tent area. Duties include decorating the area, setting-up tables, hanging banners, stocking bars and welcoming guests.


Volunteer Services is responsible for supporting the onsite volunteer committee members. Responsibilities for this committee include staffing volunteer check-in, distributing volunteer credentials, manning the volunteer shuttle, filling gaps in other committee shifts as well as preparing and serving food to the volunteers throughout each event.

Committee Areas:

  • Volunteer Check-in - The volunteer check-in system is provided electronically through the volunteer database program. The Check in volunteers check the volunteers into the system, issue event credentials, distribute volunteer t-shirts and advise volunteers as to their volunteer location and route to their posts.
  • Volunteer Food Service - Volunteer Services prepares meals for 200-300 volunteers working on event days and in some cases, provides delivery to volunteers who are not able to leave their positions. During the day snacks and cold beverages are available for volunteers needing a break.   
  • Volunteer Shuttle - The volunteer golf cart shuttle is provided for working volunteers and staff and runs along Riverside Drive during all event hours. Volunteers are transported to five predetermined locations in the park.    


Office Resources volunteers assist the Memphis in May staff with vital event related communications throughout the year. Committee members work on an as needed, project basis at the Memphis in May office during normal business hours.

Committee Areas:

  • Office Assistance - Volunteers help with a variety of office related tasks including: mailings, collating, filing, data entry and labeling. The work is scheduled through the Office Manager. The majority of the work is done at the Memphis in May offices.


The Recycling Committee is responsible for the implementation of Memphis in May’s green program.  Volunteers monitor receptacles during the events, assist in waste diversion and change bags in the receptacles when needed.


The WCBCC Administration Committee and Event Chair are responsible for ensuring a seamless WCBCC event.  Individuals on this committee set-up and decorate the Judging Tent and provide Judge’s Hospitality. Additionally, volunteers support the Memphis in May staff and other committee leadership before, during, and after the WCBCC.  Members must develop an extensive knowledge of the WCBCC event rules and regulations.   


Committee Areas:

  • WCBCC Event Oversight - The essential role of the WCBCC Administration Committee members is to maintain a well-run event. This encompasses the entire event process from team load-in until the last team leaves. Volunteers need to have an advanced understanding of Memphis in May and the WCBCC contest rules and teams. Members of this committee must provide leadership and support to other WCBCC committees. 
  • WCBCC Judging Tent Set-Up - Volunteers are responsible for the set-up, monitoring and clean-up of the blind areas of the judging tent. Memphis in May Staff provides a detailed site plan, pipe and drape, tables, chairs and signage. As the judging time progresses, the tables are adjusted according to the number of judges.      
  •  Judging Hospitality - The food and refreshment responsibilities of the committee include stocking and operating the hospitality bar inside the judging tent on Thursday, Friday and Saturday and to maintain the Judges’ Hospitality area with clean tables and chairs for the Judges.


This committee serves as the ambassadors for the barbecue competitors by providing information and assistance to the team members participating in the World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest. The Contestants’ Committee is also responsible for team registration and post event check out.

Committee Areas:

  • Ambassadors - Ambassadors are liaisons between Memphis in May and WCBCC teams and are required to work all of the event hours.  Ambassadors must have knowledge of the WCBCC rules and regulations. The Ambassador Committee assists contestants prior to the event at the Team Meeting and all hours of the WCBCC event from load in to load out. They answer team questions, assist with any contest-related item and make sure that the reams understand and follow the rules.
  • Contestant Registration - Volunteers coordinate the WCBCC contestant registration by assembling the team packets that are distributed at the team meeting in April. Packets include load-in passes, space and contest confirmation, gate passes and event rules. During team load-in the volunteers check the teams in and distribute contest information, space signage, trash/recycle cans and cattleman’s sauce.


Judging administration volunteers aid in the implementation of the World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest judging process and system. Volunteers coordinate the judges’ activities and strictly maintain the integrity of the judging process.   

Committee Areas:

  • WCBCC Judging Tent - Volunteers are responsible for setting-up, monitoring and cleaning the blind areas of the judging tent. As the judging time progresses, the tables are adjusted to accommodate the number of judges. Each table contains specific items including cutlery, napkins, plates, pencils and a table number. When samples are ready for the tables, volunteers assist with the blind box distribution.


The participants on this committee assist in the implementation of the Kingsford Tour of Champions judging contest and the Cooker Caravan program.

Committee Areas:

  • Kingsford Tour of Champions (KTOC) - This is an on-site judging contest that is comprised of pre-registered judges and takes place on Thursday and Friday during the WCBCC. Volunteers set up the KTOC tent where the pre-registered judges check in and receive their packets. They also distribute the competition items to the barbecue teams who are participating in the KTOC. 
  • Cooker Caravan - Cooker Caravan is a guided tour led by veteran volunteers of the WCBCC and hosted by competition teams. Each tour is 15-25 people and goes to teams who have signed up to receive the Cooker Caravan tours. Tours usually last two hours.
  • Auxiliary Judging Events - Volunteers assists the WCBCC Steering Committee with all of the non-food judging events, including the Miss Piggy contest, Best T-shirt contest and Best Decorated Booth contest. They coordinate with WCBCC Administration Committee to procure contestants and assist with the judging process.  


The Great American River Race Half Marathon and 5K is a Memorial Day weekend running event that will pay tribute to past and present servicemen and women. The course will route runners along the banks of the mighty Mississippi River and through downtown Memphis. A fully staffed "Race Team" comprised of individual volunteers, groups and organizations is critical to the success of the race.    

Volunteer FAQ's

I don't live in the Memphis area, can I still volunteer?

We have volunteers from many states, most of whom are long term volunteers who have moved out of Memphis and come back in May to volunteer. Volunteers must commit the time necessary to learn and perform the tasks by attending committee meetings for training and orientation. All volunteers must attend the committee’s Volunteer Orientation (1st meeting for every committee). Additional meetings (generally 3 to 4) will follow for more detailed training with your committee and attendance of at least 2 of these meetings is required.

How much time would I be expected to commit?

We ask volunteers to contribute a total of sixteen hours of volunteer time. In addition, there are training and orientation requirements for each committee. We understand how valuable your time is and we promise to do our very best to make sure the time you give us is worthwhile and enjoyable.

How can I stay up to date and involved?

We will notify you of important information by email or (by request) USPS mail. Check back on our website from time to time for Monthly Updates. Once you are assigned to a committee, your chairperson may be contacting you directly. Be sure to ask your chairperson what is the best way they wish to be reached, as they will be your link to the on goings of that specific committee.

Do I have to attend meetings for my committees?

Yes. Our volunteer committees have such an in-depth involvement with the Festival that your participation is vital to the success of not only the committee but also the event itself. The committee meetings are carefully designed to offer several things.

  • Communicating important information and training specific to that committee.
  • Signing up for and confirming shifts.
  • Social and personal interaction with other committee members- a chance to make friends!

If you cannot attend a committee meeting but still want to be involved, please contact your chairperson directly.

Where do I park?

While volunteering for events at Tom Lee Park, you will have access to free parking and a shuttle to Volunteer Check-in. A parking pass is required to access the volunteer parking lot. Parking passes will be distributed prior to the events. More information will be available on our 'Event Day Tips' page of the website.

Can I be on more than one committee?

Absolutely! Many of our volunteers serve on multiple committees, but usually no more than TWO. If you are a new volunteer, we recommend one committee. Be sure when you are signing up for your shifts that you do not schedule yourself to be in two places at once. Regarding BBQ committees, we suggest that you serve on only one as the shifts for these committees do overlap.

What if I want to volunteer with a friend?

Make sure you and your friend sign up for the same committee. Be sure to attend the committee meeting and tell your chairperson you would both like to work the same shift's. This can almost always be accommodated.


The Memphis in May Volunteer Program is consistently rated as one of the best festival-based volunteer programs in the country. Our program has won local and national awards including the following: 2015, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2006 and 2004 International Festival & Events Assocation Gold Pinnacle Award for Best Volunteer Program, 2005 IFEA Volunteer of the Year Lisa Collins and 2003 Volunteer Memphis Spirit of Giving Award for Agency of the Year


2016 Lawrence Blackmon “Volunteer of the Year” Award Winner:

Lenoir Owens, Office Resources & Volunteer Services

2016 President's Award Winners:

John Joplin, Media Relations
John Lawrence, Media Relations

2016 Bradshaw Award Winner: 

James Dettman, Transportation

2016 Outstanding service Award Winner: 

Michelle O'Guin, WCBCC Judging

2016 Debut Award Winners

Bethany Miller, Communications
Jett Quay, Education
Sylvie Le Bouthillier, Honored Nationals
Karen Barrows, Hospitality
Michael Leverett, International Programming
Justin Pignocco, Logistics
Eric Hedgecock, Production
Thomas Brown, Recycling
David White, Transportation
Adrienne Studaway, Volunteer Services
Jacquelin Hatley, WCBCC Contestants
Jennifer Lawhorn, WCBCC Judging
Lindsey Hamilton, WCBCC Programming

2016 "Best Of" Award Winners

LeAnn Rogers, Communication
LaSandria Ward, Education
Jo Cunningham, Hospitality
Danielle Schonbaum, International Programming
Chris Miller, Logistics
Janice Jones, Office Resources
Karen McGee, Recycling
Bill "Crash" Mackert, Transportation
Rod Hibbler, Volunteer Services
Bob Buck, WCBCC Administration
Michael Hatley, WCBCC Contestants
Mary Collins, WCBCC Judging
Lyle Beck, WCBCC Programming

2016 Sylvia Bradshaw “Chair of the Year” Nominees

Larry Gruner, Communications
Audrey Elion, Ph.D., Education
Lenoir Owens, Office Resources
Stephen Dean, Production
James Dettman, Transportation
Ann Capatino, WCBCC Administration
Lisa Carayiannis, WCBCC Contestants
Michelle O'Guin, WCBCC Judging
Heather Coolican, WCBCC Programming

2016 Lawrence Blackmon “Volunteer of the Year” Nominees

Zofia Schmidt, Education
Michael Ciaramitaro, Hospitality
Steve Likens, International Programming
Allison Pignocco, Logistics
Gracie Templeton, Office Resources
Billy Wilkerson, Production
Keith Snider, Recycling
Mike Znaniecki, Transportation
Jennifer Dettman, Transportation
Lenoir Owens, Volunteer Services
Vicki Buck, WCBCC Administration
Ken Henry, WCBCC Contestants
Becky Palmer, WCBCC Judging
Kathleen Greene Mitchell, WCBCC Programming

Volunteer Spotlight

James Dettman - Transportation Chair

  1. How many years have you volunteered for Memphis in May?

    I have been volunteering for at least 10 years.

  2. What do you do when you're not volunteering for MIM?

    I've been in the insurance business for 23 years consulting on Employee Benefits.  When I'm not volunteering for MIM, I am busy with work & occasionally volunteering my time with other professional & civic organizations then try to make time for myself & my friends.  

  3. What attracted you to volunteer for MIM?

    When I moved to Memphis 12+ years ago, all the new friends I made would volunteer for MIM.  So I decided to join them one year & I have been hooked ever since.  

  4. Of all the MIM events, which is your favorite and why?

    WCBCC. Working with the Transportation Committee, I have the opportunity to meet almost all the teams during Load-In, during, & Load-Out.  It is just amazing to see the Park turn into a small town & back to a park in a weeks time.  It is an exciting time no matter the weather & at the end of the day - everyone has a great time.

  5. What’s your favorite volunteer memory?

    We had inclement weather with strong winds at BSMF this year.  As a result of the storms, many of the entrance scaffolds & signs were damaged & caused hazards for the park & we had to shut down the park temporarily.  It was amazing to see an "all hands on deck" approach to getting the park in a safe condition so it could be opened to the public and continue the festivities.

  6. What made you want to volunteer for MIM?

    Volunteering with Transpo Committee really infuses you into the MIM experience. We are involved during the month long event & impact a lot of the event logistics. From BSMF to WCBCC & now to 901Fest - Transpo will always be there to make sure there is a smooth & great experience for all. 

  7. What's your favorite food?

    I would have to say PIZZA. You gotta love a good piece of PIE - I even experienced some great pizza at WCBCC cooked on some grills.

  8. Do you have a favorite band?

    Over time I have come to like a number of bands:  The Cure, Duran Duran, Scorpions, Alice in Chains, Metallica, & Disturbed are my favorite bands.

  9. What is your favorite place to visit/vacation?

    Greece & the Greek Islands, Cayman Islands, & Hawaiian Islands. There are many other places I want to visit on my bucket list.

  10. What are you passionate about?

    When I'm not working & volunteering my time to organization like MIM, Relay for Life, Miss Memphis/Shelby County, & the Jaycees to name a few -  "I REALLY LOVE TO TRAVEL".  I like to go on vacations & explore the world, scuba dive, deep sea fishing, & hanging out with great friends.

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