"There are a number of issues we have with the plan"

Wayne Tabor, CEO Memphis Metropolitan Hotel and Lodging Association

"It is going to come at a space loss for Memphis in May"

Jim Holt, CEO Memphis in May International Festival

"The last thing we want to do is make this park that does not accommodate Memphis in May"

Carol Coleta, CEO Memphis River Parks Partnership

The Memphis in May International Festival (MIM) is a cornerstone of Memphis tourism and an integral part of the lives of countless Memphians. The MRPP has burst onto the scene with big plans for Tom Lee Park with a tight timeline, claiming it will not adversely affect our beloved festival. Many close to this event think this simply doesn’t appear to be true. Have you heard MIM vocally supporting this proposal and its claims? We sure haven’t. I wonder why.

A plan of this magnitude deserves a closer look and far more careful consideration than has been provided thus far. Read on below to learn more, or jump to the email form to let the Mayor and city council know you are concerned about the impact of these plans on the Memphis waterfront and Memphis in May.

Capacity Issues

MRPP's plan WILL significantly impact MIM capacity

MRPP's proposed MIM layout includes unrealistic numbers to hide its flaws. They fail to guarantee support of popular large BBQ booths, while inflating the number of small, less-desirable booths. Their “current” Beale Street Music Festival (BSMF) map is misleading about actual current capacity. The proposed layout simply can’t handle the sell-out crowds the current design does. Smaller potential crowds could limit the caliber of talent and amount of revenue BSMF attracts.

Logistical Oversights

Failure to account for construction / logistics traffic

We’ve all heard of “Memphis in Mud.” Traditionally all BBQfest booths abut concrete walkaways that see heavy traffic from scaffold crews, construction equipment, and teams loading in. Next, there’s the stampede of guests by day, and heavy sanitation trucks emptying toilets by night. MRPP’s plan places a large number of booths facing narrow grass walkways that are not capable of supporting this traffic, REGARDLESS of the claims of “improved drainage.” Some construction and scaffold vendors have implied they will not build booths at the festival under the proposed conditions.

Safety shouldn’t be an afterthought

The proposal lacks a defined security or maintenance plan

Traditionally there has been a dedicated north/south artery (Riverside Drive) for emergency and support vehicles. The proposed plan calls for Riverside Drive to be packed with vendor and team booths, eliminating any emergency or functional use of that road. Year-round, the introduction of meandering terraced walkways and trees introduce opportunity for criminal activity if not policed properly. MRPP offers vague mention of “working with MPD” (who are already understaffed) and “adding lights and cameras.” There doesn’t appear to be a detailed safety plan or maintenance plan, or a budget to support either. How much will it cost taxpayers to protect those who use the new park?

Economic Impact

Hurting MIM means hurting local business

In 2018, MIM generated a whopping $137.7 million economic impact for the City of Memphis. This figure has grown about 25% annually from $111.9 million in 2017 and $88 Million in 2016. The festival is critical to downtown businesses, as evidenced by leaders in the hospitality industry openly opposing MRPP’s proposed plan. Shrinking MIM would likely cost local businesses tens of millions of dollars and hundreds of jobs.

The devil in the details

Where are the judging, awards, or entertainment?

Historically, the center of the WCBCC features a large complex consisting of a judging tent, festival operations, and a large stage for awards and entertainment like Ms. Piggy Idol and live concerts. The location and scope of this judging complex is the nerve center of the “world’s most prestigious BBQ competition,” yet the MRPP plan appears to have left these essential elements off their festival plans. When we rush, we sometimes overlook important details.

Picking up the tab

Only partially funded, with no maintenance funding plan

MRPP has only raised HALF of the proposed $70 million needed for the project (assuming it stays under budget). With the proposed start mere months away, will taxpayers be stuck with the tab for the balance? Where is the plan or funding for ongoing maintenance? The Memphis riverfront is already littered with failed or dilapidated development projects. Let’s encourage the Mayor and City Council to slow this down, and take the time to ensure this potential riverfront development is done RIGHT.

What’s next?

Let’s slow down and do this the right way

Our aim is simple. We want to give a voice to Memphians who are concerned about rushing into this project. We wish to simplify the process by which they can reach out to City Council and the Mayor’s office, and have those concerns heard. We don’t claim to have all the answers, but we want our leaders and MIM stakeholders to have time to find them. In the end, we all want MIM to continue its trend of growth and success as a vital component of the downtown economy.

Save MIM

Craft your letter

We've provided a sample letter here to get you started. While you can send it as-is, we encourage you to customize it or start from scratch and share your own thoughts!

Confirm you’d like to email the Mayor

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Select the council members you’d like to send this email to

Note: For help locating your council member: VIEW THIS MAP.

When you select your district, we will also email the appropriate super-district city council members as well.
Super District 8 (Districts 3,4,6,7): Joe Brown, Cheyenne Johnson, and Martavius Jones
Super District 9 (Districts 1,2,5): Kemp Conrad, J. Ford Canale, Reid Hedgepeth

Who are we?

Who is behind SaveMIM.org?

Let’s start with who we aren’t. We are not employed by or affiliated with the Memphis in May International Festival, The Memphis Tourism Board, or any other established civil entity. We are merely a few concerned Memphians who love the Memphis In May International Festival, and enjoy our waterfront.

We are a few concerned Memphians who love the Memphis In May International Festival, and enjoy our waterfront. We have been competing at the World Championship of Barbecue cooking contest for 15 years, currently as The Usual Saucepects. We also have experience running scaffold crews and constructing booths/stages for all facets of Memphis in May. We are intimately familiar with the behind-the-scenes logistics required for a successful world-class festival like Memphis in May.

Contact us: If you’d like to speak to those behind saveMIM.org, please email us at savememphisinmay@gmail.com.