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Due to the continuing threat of COVID 19, adjustments have been made to the 2021 Memphis in May event calendar as the effects of the pandemic is expected to extend into the spring.

World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest will proceed as planned May 12-15, 2021 with strict COVID19 protocols in place. The World Championship will be somewhat different and smaller with capacity restrictions that may be in place at that time. Team applications are now open.

Great American River Run is set for Memorial Day Weekend, May 29, 2021 with COVID19 protocols in place. Adjustment for the run will include a rolling start to space runner with staggard start times. Runner registration is now open.

Beale Street Music Festival will be moved to May 2022. The move is due to the nature of the event, gathering thousands of fans in front of stages and falling earlier in the calendar. Large scale music festivals and concerts remain deeply affected by the pandemic across the globe. Memphis is no exception, and any large gatherings may not be possible until much later in the year. Ticket holders can defer their tickets to 2022 and lock-in prices from 2020 or request a full refund by visiting

Festival officials announced the changes to responsibly present as much of the traditional Memphis in May events while planning for anticipated COVID19 protocols in the interest of public safety. The decision was made during a special session of the Board of Directors held earlier this week. The health and safety of our fans, teams, runners, volunteers, staff, sponsors, vendors, and the public are always our top priority.

“We are disappointed with the postponement of the Beale Street Music Festival to 2022, but we feel we cannot safely replicate the experience that our fans know and love with the potential COVID 19 restrictions.” said James L. Holt, President & CEO of Memphis in May International Festival, “However, because of the nature of our other two Tom Lee Park events, we are confident that we can safely present the World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest and the Great American River Run with adjustments for COVID.”

The international Salute to Ghana, slated for May 2021, faces significant challenges because of the global pandemic. The nature of the salute is based on bringing people and cultures together for a meaningful exchange, which is problematic because international travel has been severely reduced and visa processing halted since March in addition to other COVID 19 concerns.

“It is our desire to present a salute befitting the great nation of Ghana and share it’s wonderful culture with Memphians.” said Charles Ewing, 2020 & 2021 Memphis in May International Festival Board Chair, “We are aware that a change will be necessary because of the pandemic.

We are in communication with Ambassador Adjei-Barwuah of Ghana in Washington, D.C. as well as officials at the U.S. Embassy in Accra and a decision on how best to proceed will be made by the Board of Directors in January.”

Memphis in May International Festival exists to produce a civic festival celebrating Memphis culture and to elevate the city’s profile on the international stage. Memphis in May is the official festival of the City of Memphis and a source of civic pride since 1977. Our most recent economic impact studies from 2017 through 2019 revealed Memphis in May generated a significant $398 million impact for Memphis and Shelby County along with $11.2 million in local tax revenue.

The Memphis in May International Festival cancellation in 2020 due to the COVID19 pandemic resulted in a massive 1.8-million-dollar financial loss for the organization this year.

Memphis in May International Festival will celebrate its 45th anniversary in 2021 and will need the broad support that the organization has enjoyed for over four decades.

2021 Memphis in May International Festival Dates
World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest: May 12 – 15, 2021
Great American River Run: May 29, 2021
Salute to Ghana: May 1 - 31, 2021 - pending
Beale Street Music Festival: Moved to May 2022                                                                                              

About Memphis in May 
Memphis in May is a 501(c)3 nonprofit community-based organization whose mission is to promote and celebrate Memphis’ culture, foster economic growth, and enhance international awareness through education. Founded by racially diverse Memphians in 1977, racial equity and parity are embedded in the fiber and culture of Memphis in May, the official festival of the City of Memphis.

Recipient of 223 prestigious Pinnacle Awards from the International Festival and Events Association, it has been named to Travel+Leisure’s international list of Festivals Worth Traveling For, and in 2018, Memphis topped CNN Travel’s list of international destinations to visit in May because of Memphis in May events. Beale Street Music Festival was named by Oprah Magazine as one of “14 Festivals You Won’t Want to Miss in 2020.

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