Memphis in May to move, new dates expected soon

By , Daily Memphian Published: March 19, 2020 3:46 PM CT

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The Memphis In May International Festival is off for May with a later date to be announced in a week’s time.

Organizers of the month-long series of events announced the postponement Thursday, saying they have “been instructed by authorities with the city of Memphis that our 2020 festival events cannot be held as originally scheduled in May.”

Memphis In May schedule remains up in the air

“With the health and safety of our patrons, performers, volunteers, teams, judges, runners and staff as our top priorities, we are working on a fall postponement of the Beale Street Music Festival, International Salute to Ghana, the World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest and the Great American River Run,” the statement reads.

The announcement of the new dates for the events is expected March 27 along with information on refunds if ticket holders cannot attend on the new dates.

The direction from the city proved crucial in the decision to postpone. Without such specific direction and wording, the festival could have been liable financially for a cancellation or postponement short of being ordered to do so by civil authorities.

The Beale Street Music Festival, on the opening weekend of the festival, involves more than 60 musical acts — all with some kind of contract.

The move to postpone comes the day after the New Orleans Jazz Festival announced its postponement after city officials there ordered the postponement for an event that was to start about the same time as the Beale Street Music Festival.

Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland called for a summer or fall date for Memphis In May Monday during a meeting with tourism industry leaders. That was followed later by direct talks between the city and the festival.

The 2020 festival honors the African nation of Ghana, where a Memphis delegation including Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris traveled earlier this month just ahead of the World Health Organization declaring the novel coronavirus has reached the stage of a global pandemic.

The 2020 festival was to be followed by a renovation and redesign of Tom Lee Park, the setting for the major events of the festival with Memphis In May moving to another location for the 2021 festival.

The Memphis River Parks Partnership, which operates and maintains the city’s riverside parks for the city, had talked with Memphis In May before Thursday’s decision to postpone about a possible relocation. The partnership is also leading the redesign of Tom Lee Park. It’s not clear at this point if the delay in the festival will impact the timetable for the park’s redesign.

“We stand ready to assist should the festival or the City decide to make any necessary changes to the schedule,” partnership external affairs director George Abbott said earlier this week. 


Memphis In May Jim Strickland

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Bill Dries

Bill Dries

Bill Dries covers city and county government and politics. He is a native Memphian and has been a reporter for more than 40 years.


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