It’s Memphis in May! I know that you know it’s May. I also know that you know I write from the Memphis area. But, folks, it’s Memphis in May!
Officially, it’s called Memphis in May International Festival. The celebration features three major events plus a host of others. I’m not exactly sure when the Cotton Carnival that I grew up with morphed into this “broader” celebration. I’ve been gone a very long time, you know. I have my theories, and we’ll talk about that in my next post.
The first major event was last weekend – The Beale Street Music Festival. As with all the three major events, the many stages of the music fest were scattered across Tom Lee Park which I wrote about some time ago. (http://plunkchronicles.blogspot.com/2007/11/tom-lee-park.html)
Featured artists included Aretha Franklin (originally from Memphis), Jerry Lee Lewis (with whom Mike toured and who lives in the area), Santana, Fergie, Sheryl Crowe and Michael McDonald (another Tennessean).
Hundreds of teams are already setting up tonight at the park for this weekend’s event which kicks off tomorrow, the 15th. This has gotta be a favorite. It’s the world’s largest (pork) barbecue cook-off. You see, in the South we barbecue pig. Those silly folks in Texas cook cows, but they don’t know what they’re doing.
I am absolutely forced to make this aside. If it weren’t for Tennesseans, there would be no Texas. There’s Davy Crockett – a Tennessee boy -- hero of the Alamo. And their first governor was even a Tennessean. They just can’t get it right without us. I didn’t mean to go there.
At any rate, Al Roker of The Today Show frequently broadcasts live from the barbecue cook-off. It’s a fantastic event with subcategories such as pork sides and ribs. I’m hungry thinking about it. Oh yeah, not only are supreme bragging rights at stake. There is also prize money totaling $90,000. I told you it was big.
The final event of the month is the Sunset Symphony attended by thousands who bring picnic goodies and settle along the banks of the Mighty Mississippi for a wonderful evening of music – this year featuring The Four Tops. There will also be an air show with World War II vintage planes and a finale with fireworks over the river. Very moving.
I haven’t yet mentioned that part of the “international” in the festival’s title pertains to the recognition each year of an honored country to promote economic partnerships and international understanding. In a piece of that aspect, the Memphis in May folks invite a well known, regionally-based artist to create a painting honoring the designated country. The painting is then converted to posters and other collateral materials.
The photo with this post is the painting created about 10 years ago by our long-time friend John Robinette. The honored country was Morocco. When we first met John, he was a singer with a band (Jimmy Day & The Knights) that Mike played with. John was a great singer and was in art school at the time -- same school former President Jimmy Carter's daughter attended, Memphis Academy of Art.
We hung out with John and his wife and tried to get him to sell us, cheap, one of his paintings because we knew he was going to be famous one day and we wouldn’t be able to afford him. And it came to pass. We do, however, have one of his originals and two of his prints, and they add to our lives. I wish he had a website so I could give it to you. Let me know if you want to know more about his work.
Memphis in May is just waiting for you to drop in. For more info, check the web site at http://memphisinmay.org/.