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Memphis River Parks: 'No signed agreement' for Memphis in May to return to Tom Lee Park in 2023

Memphis in May officials made the announcement Thursday, but the Memphis River Parks Partnership said an agreement has not been signed yet.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Memphis in May organizers announced Thursday that the Beale Street Music Festival and World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest would return to the Memphis riverfront downtown in Tom Lee Park in 2023.

However, according to the Memphis River Parks Partnership, that's still up in the air. In a statement to ABC24 Friday morning, the organization said, "There is currently no signed lease agreement."

RELATED: Memphis in May to honor Malaysia for 2023 festival

In June, the festival was at Liberty Park and reported its lowest attendance. Organizers said at the time, they expected nearly $2 million in losses after the temporary move. 

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.

RELATED: Memphis in May’s Great American River Run returns to downtown Memorial Day weekend

MIM organizers said Mayor Jim Strickland offered a solution to help with the financial implications of moving into a modified event site in Tom Lee Park in 2023. 

In a statement Friday, the mayor's office said, "The mayor has proposed a financial arrangement to cover damages to Tom Lee Park next May, which would include the City as a party. However, city council approval is needed, and any discussion of City participation is premature until the council can be briefed."

The park is currently under construction as part of a $60 million park redesign from the Memphis River Parks Partnership. In August, the Memphis River Parks Partnership said construction of Tom Lee Park was 50% complete. 

RELATED: Digging into the $60 million Tom Lee Park renovation

“Mayor Strickland recognized the cultural value and impressive economic impact that Memphis in May delivers for the city of Memphis, and we are grateful for his personal leadership to ensure the festival’s return to our long-term home,” said Leigh Shockey, Memphis in May 2023 Board Chair. 

Memphis in May 2023 dates:

  • Salute to Malaysia: May 1-31
  • Beale Street Music Festival: May 5-7
  • World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest: May 17-20
  • Great American River Run: May 27

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