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Memphis in May reports lowest attendance and expects nearly $2 million in losses after move to Liberty Park

Officials said combined attendance for both the music festival and BBQ Contest was below 115,000, nearly 60,000 fewer than in 2019.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Memphis in May officials said the move to Liberty Park at the old Mid-South Fairgrounds for this year’s Beale Street Music Festival and the World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest led to the biggest decline in attendance in two decades.

Officials said combined attendance for both the festival and BBQ Contest was below 115,000. MIM leaders said in 2019, more than 175,000 people attended, and in 2018, more than 178,000 attended.

They also said they expect a record-setting financial loss of about $1.9 million when the final numbers are in. Organizers said Memphis in May lost about $1.8 million in 2020 when the festival had to cancel due to COVID. The 2021 were reduced in scale due to the ongoing pandemic.

The final financial numbers are expected in August at the annual Memphis in May meeting for its annual report. That’s when they will show how much the festival generated in its impact to the city. In 2019, MIM officials said the festival had an impact of more than $149 million – with $4.6 million in local tax revenue and supported more than 1,400 jobs.

“Our fans were pleased we presented the full-scale festival in 2022, for the first time in three years.” said James L. Holt, President & CEO, in a statement. “We knew we would experience a significant decline in attendance because of our displacement from Tom Lee Park. The ongoing COVID pandemic, inflationary environment, and artist cancelations at Beale Street Music Festival also partially contributed to the decline in attendance.”

The 2023 Memphis in May International Festival will return to the riverfront at Tom Lee Park for its 46th edition.

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