Volunteer with Memphis in May

Thank you for considering sharing your time and talents with Memphis in May and helping us produce the Beale Street Music Festival, the World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest, the AutoZone Sunset Symphony and the International Salute!

Signups for 2016 Memphis in May events will begin later this year.

The enormous effort of each and every volunteer makes Memphis in May International Festival one of the best celebrations in North America. Not only will you have the opportunity to be a respected ambassador for our organization and the great city of Memphis, but you will also become a vital member of the Memphis in May family and meet people and make new friends, not only locally but from across the country and around the world.

Volunteer Recognition

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 IFEA Gold Pinnacle Award for Best Volunteer Program
  • 2005 IFEA Volunteer of the Year, Lisa Collins
  • 2003 Volunteer Memphis Spirit of Giving Award for Agency of the Year

Volunteer Awards

2015 Debut Award Winners

Irby Bilsky ,  Communications
Nadia Chamberland , Festival Services
John Quay, Production
Tabitha Stiel , BBQ Contestants
James “Hunter” Gooch , Transportation
Chris Mason , BBQ Programming
Nevada Gates, International Programming
Terry Davenport, BBQ Judging
Christopher Taylor, Education
Keith Snider, Recycling
John Quay, Logistics
Lia Wiley, Hospitality
Jeannie Whitley, Office Resources
Xavier Graves, BBQ Administration
Shonnase Woods, Volunteer Services
Ehlana Lingerfelt, Volunteer Services

2015 "Best Of" Award Winners

Carole Cornell, International Programming
Beverly Boyland, Office Resources
Rita Richardson, Communications
Lara Brumback, Education
Nick Montroy, Recycling
Lucille Price, Volunteer Services
Don Roberts, Production
Charlotte Lackey, BBQ Judging
Ernest Harper, Hospitality
Patrice Hughes, BBQ Programming
Mike & Teri Collier, BBQ Administration
Lisa Casey, BBQ Contestants
Robert Johnson, Festival Services
David Ising, Transportation
Jay Caughman, Logistics
Chef Edward Nowakowski, Honored Nationals
Stacy Hildebrand Johnson, Festival Services

2015 Sylvia Bradshaw “Chair of the Year” Nominees

Dwight Haley, International Programming
Lenoir Owens, Office Resources
Larry Gruner, Communications
Dr. Audrey Elion, Education
Heather Coolican, Recycling
Bob Buck, Volunteer Services
Stephen Dean, Production
Lori Dixon, BBQ Judging
Michael Ciaramitaro, Hospitality
Charles Thompson, BBQ Programming
Ann Capatino, BBQ Administration
Dell Stokes, BBQ Contsetants
Brigid Whalen, Festival Services
James Dettman, Transportation
Bill Woods, Logistics
Dr. Jacek Dutkiewicz, Honored Nationals

2015 Bradshaw Award Winner: Larry Gruner , Communications

2015 Lawrence Blackmon “Volunteer of the Year” Nominees

Bob Beauvais, Communications
Dave Hanisco, Festival Services
Dave Reeve, Production
Vitterio Vosley, BBQ Contestants
Michael Znaniecki, Transportation
Lyle Beck, BBQ Programming
Deana Windham, International Programming
Claire Gentry, BBQ Judging
Nevada Gates, Education
Rose Bryant, Recycling
Steve Shotts, Logistics
Jean Marie Harrison, Hospitality
Beverly Garrett, Office Resources
Brittney Forsyth, BBQ Administration
Linda Rainey, Volunteer Services
Aga Przetak Santisteban, Honored Nationals

2015 Lawrence Blackmon “Volunteer of the Year” Award Winner: Dave Hanisco, Festival Services

2015 President's Award Winner: Bob Buck, Hospitality

Volunteer Committees


International awareness is at the core of the Memphis in May International Festival’s commitment to the education of the Mid-South community, children, and adults alike. The committee assists the Memphis in May Education Department in the development of education programming which includes the Children’s Art Poster, International Competitions, World Cargo Crate, as well as the Curriculum Guide. Volunteers also assist securing local host families for students from the honored country and securing staff for the Education Awards Ceremony and the annual International Teacher’s Conference. As an education volunteer, you are aiding 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 many  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 to be held at the Teaching and Learning Academy. The conference is open to Memphis City, Shelby County, private school and home school teachers and education professionals. 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.  
  • Student Exchange Program Volunteers may assist in securing host families for students who travel to Memphis from the honored country and in coordinating activities for those students during their stay. Volunteers may also help with welcome signs and greeting and welcoming the Memphis students and foreign students at the airport.    


This committee assists in the implementation of the Memphis in May international festivities.  Volunteers work closely with MIM staff in the implementation of the International Week. Volunteers work with artists to install unique exhibits from Honored Country at museums all over Memphis. During International Week, volunteers will also have the chance to volunteer at the Orpheum Theater during the International Public Performance. Additionally, International Programming volunteers assist international artists with feeling comfortable. You might transport artists from the airport, hotel, concert venue, tourist destination, and restaurant. While transporting, volunteers introduce Memphis to the artists and provide assistance. Transportation scheduling is accomplished by the committee leadership and Memphis in May staff.


  • Exhibit Installations - Volunteers may assist in 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 art sales area.  Volunteers interact with patrons in the tent, show them the artwork, and assist with poster signing.      
  • Gala- Volunteers may assist in setting up items, running errands, decorating and/or assemble auction display for the International Gala.  
  • Cultural Performance- Volunteers greet guests as they arrive and help prepare for intromission 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- Volunteers assist international artists with feeling comfortable. Members might transport artists from the airport, hotel, concert venue, tourist destination, and restaurants. While transporting,members introduce Memphis to the artists and provide assistance. 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 Memphis in May's celebration of their country.  Insight from ‘resident experts’ helps Memphis in May improve its international programming.

Committee Areas:

International Event Support   Volunteers assist the international committees to provide translation, awareness of the honored county’s language and customs, and full any gaps in volunteer roles.    


The Communications Committee is a small group of volunteers responsible for two vital on-site roles.  The first is the maintenance and inventorying 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 the radios are distributed and monitored.  
  • Pork Forkers   Fork-lift experienced volunteers assist WCBCC teams with moving materials and placing BBQ rigs/trailers during WCBCC Load in/out.


    The production committee is responsible for the majority of the pre-event creation and maintenance of Memphis in May materials.  Production is also responsible for assisting in site preparations and solving last minute event issues.

    Committee Areas:

    • Pre-May Building Volunteers build festival items such as tables, a-frames, info booths, decks, and various other festival items.  
    • Pre-event Set-up  Volunteers assist Operations staff with event set-up such as banners, tables/chairs set-up, paint and assemble decking.       
    • On-event Assistance      Volunteers assist Operations staff solving small issues during the event day (re-hand fallen banners, move plywood, lay decking/flooring).   


    The Transportation Committee is responsible for control of vehicular access into Tom Lee Park and parking areas inside the festival gates.  This includes media, vendors, performers, VIP’s and emergency personnel.

    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, which caters to the bands and manages the backstage areas for all of Memphis in May’s events: Beale Street Music Festival, World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest and Sunset Symphony.

    Michael Ciaramitaro, Committee Chair


    Committee Areas:

    • Beale Street Music Festival    During this event the committee runs four stages and caters to approximately 65 bands for all three days.  To make sure there are enough volunteers all day the committee offers three shift times for volunteers to work.
    • World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest During this event the committee runs only one stage and caters to approximately twelve to eight bands for all three days.
    • Sunset Symphony This event is one day only, Saturday.  During this event the committee runs one stage and caters to musical talent, and the Memphis Symphony. There is a large amount of people backstage during this event- volunteers are asked to help load-in and out of bands if help is needed. SS is the last event of the season, volunteers should spend time going through the committee boxes, taking inventory, removing trash, and properly storing items for next year.


    Logistics plays an essential role in surveying and marking the locations of event structures and spaces according to the pre-set event map.  The majority of the Logistics Committee’s responsibilities fall around the week leading up to  our World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest.   During that time, committee members mark off the team spaces.

    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.
    • 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. Report and abuse to Memphis in May staff for resolution.  


    Festival Services volunteers are the public face of Memphis in May and provide patrons with information about activities.  Volunteers assist staff with executing various auxiliary events, including staffing VIP areas.

    Committee Areas:

    • Information Booths   The information booths are a main point of contact for patrons.  Each booth will be equipped with: Park map, Schedule of events, Radio, Light(s), Event programs, Ponchos (if available), Drinks and Snacks. Greet patrons, answer questions, and distribute programs. Report any emergencies to the Command Post.
    • BSMF VIP    Volunteers set-up and manage each  VIP Tent area . Duties include: decorate area, set-up tables, hang banners, stock bar, serve drinks.
    • WCBCC VIP    Same as BSMF, only one area.
    • AZSS VIP   The AZSS VIP area are is more elaborate since it typically serves around 150-200 people. There is between 2 and 4 bars where VIP patrons can get bottled water, cokes, wine, and beer.  These bars are staffed by volunteers, usually 2 per bar. This event is catered and volunteers help with the catering set-up. Volunteers also help police the area for trash and keep receptacles free from getting too full.    


    Volunteer Services is responsible for supporting many of the on-site committees.  The committee is responsible for Volunteer Check-in, filling gaps in other committees, volunteer shuttle and preparing food.

    Committee Areas:

    • Volunteer Check-in  The volunteer check-in system and paperwork will be provided to the committee by the Volunteer Coordinator. Only volunteers on the day’s roster will be allowed a credential. On their first event check-in, volunteers will receive: T-shirt, Pocket Guide and Daily credential.
    • Volunteer Food Service  On any given event day, there are between 200-300 volunteers in the park.  Volunteer Services prepares their meals and in some cases, provides delivery to volunteers working.  During the day, snacks and cold beverages will be available to volunteers needing a break.  
    • Volunteer Shuttle  The volunteer golf cart shuttle usually runs along Riverside Drive. Prior to gates open, the shuttle can run along the river walkway. There are five pick-up and drop-off points.  The shuttle is for volunteers and Memphis in May staff ONLY. Volunteers are not to shuttle patrons and never accept cash for rides. The shuttle will have shacks and bottled water available to any volunteer in the park.    


    Volunteers with Office Resources assist the Memphis in May staff with vital event related communications.  Committee members are involved with all facets of the festival and are essential to its success.

    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 Volunteer coordinator on established calendar days and, in some cases, on days added to the schedule. The majority of the work is done at the Memphis in May offices.


    The Speakers Bureau represents Memphis in May at community meetings and events to share information about the honored country.  The committee also informs the public of upcoming Memphis in May events.  Presentations are traditionally facilitated by Memphis in May prepared PowerPoint.

    Committee Areas:

    • Presentations  Dates–November through May     Details-The Speakers Bureau provides information about upcoming Memphis in May events to the public and assists Memphis in May staff in recruiting volunteers and patrons.


    Volunteers with this committee assist in the implementation of the Festival Recycling program.

    Committee Areas:

    • Recycling   Volunteers work in sorting recycled items, assisting in waste diversion and changing bags in the receptacles when needed.


    The WCBCC Administration Committee and the Volunteer Event Chair are responsible for ensuring a smooth WCBCC event.  Individuals in this committee are responsible to complete set-up and decorating the Judging Tent and Judge’s Hospitality. Additionally, volunteers support the Memphis in May staff and other committee leadership before, during, and after the WCBCC.  Members must enforce and have full knowledge of volunteer, WCBCC, and event rules and regulations.   

    Committee Areas:

    • 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 has a detailed map and will have the Pipe and drape, tables, chairs, and signage delivered to the tent.  As the judging time progresses, the tables will need to be adjusted according 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 to sit. The bar is supplied with cokes, beer, snacks, water and ingredients to make several mixed drinks.     
    •  WCBCC Event Oversight - The essential role of the BBQ Administration Committee members is to maintain a smooth event.  The responsibility onsite lasts between early load-in and until the last team leaves.   Volunteers should have an advanced understanding of Memphis in May and WCBCC contest rules and teams. Members of this committee must provide leadership and provide support to other WCBCC committees as needed.


    The Contestants Committee focuses its energy on assisting the contestants of the WCBCC.  The committee performs two major roles.  In order to provide information and assistance to the teams, members of this committee will act as event ambassadors.  The second responsibility of the Contestants Committee will be the implantation of contestant registration.

    Committee Areas:

    • Ambassadors  Ambassadors are liaisons between Memphis in May and WCBCC teams.  Ambassadors must have knowledge of the WCBCC rules and regulations.  The Ambassador Committee assists contestants at the Team Meeting, during WCBCC Load-in, during the WCBCC, and during Load-out.  Prior to WCBCC, they answer team questions and assist with any contest related items. On-site, ambassadors make sure teams load-in properly, answer questions, and help teams follow the rules.
    • Contestant Registration   Volunteers coordinate with Memphis in May staff to arrange WCBCC information for teams.  Memphis in May will provide a complete team list that is used to build registration packets. Packets are picked up at the Team Meeting in April. Packets include, load-in passes, space and contest confirmation, passes, and event rules. During Load-in, volunteers check-in teams as they arrive. At check-in teams are given contest information, space sign, trash/recycle can, and cattleman’s sauce. Volunteers communicate with Memphis in May staff about any team issues or if there are any teams that have not checked-in.


    WCBCC judging committee volunteers aid in the implantation of the World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest judging system.  Volunteers help to receive submission boxes from teams and maintain the integrity of the judging process.   

    Committee Areas:

    • WCBCC Judging Tent    Volunteers are used for set-up, monitoring and clean up of the blind areas of the judging tent.  As the judging time progresses, the tables will need to be adjusted according the number of judges. Each table should have specific items: cutlery, napkins, plates, pencils and table number. When samples are ready for the tables, volunteers will assist with box distribution.  After judging is complete, left over samples will be brought to judging hospitality.


    Assist in the implementation of the Kingsford Tour of Champions contest  and Cooker Caravan.

    Committee Areas:

    • Kingsford Tour of Champions- This is a on-site judging contest judged by pre-registered judges that will take place over Thursday and Friday. Volunteers assist MIM staff with setting up the KTOC tent where the pre-registered judges will check in and receive their packet. Distribute all needed items to teams competing in KTOC including Boston butts, gloves, serving tongs, heating pans, charcoal, cleaning stations and signage.
    • Cooker Caravan      Cooker caravan is a guided tour led by veteran volunteers of WCBCC and competing teams.  Each tour is about 15-25 people in size and goes to teams who have signed up to receive tours. Tours usually last about 2 hours.
    • Auxiliary Judging Events     Volunteers work with WCBCC Steering Committee in all non-food judging events.  Volunteers coordinate with BBQ Administration Committee to procure contestants and assist with the judging process. WCBCC Steering Committee Chair is responsible for administering the Ms. Piggy Contest – BBQ programming supports these leaders. Committee is also responsible for coordinating the judging of the Best T-shirt and Best Booth events. All judging will be done to the satisfaction of the Memphis in May and WCBCC rules and regulations.

    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.