If I could collect a dollar for every "world championship barbecue contest," I could probably attend several of them. There must not be a real Super Bowl of barbecue. (It's even hard to get us to agree on how to spell it, let alone on how to celebrate or cook it. The Memphis in May program advertises this barbecue championship as, "The Super Bowl of Swine. The College of Pig Knowledge. The Granddaddy of Grills. The Largest Pork Barbecue Cooking Contest on the Planet." I cannot attest to any of those claims because I have not been to all of the others but the folks in Terlingua, TX might want to argue with them a bit. Nevertheless, it is a great event and during its three day run in mid-May over 90,000 visitors will throng to Memphis's Tom Lee Park to check it out.
During those three days, the sweetest smelling cloud of hickory smoke, pork, tomato, mustard, vinegar, more pork, leads all noses to Tom Lee Park. During this time, contestants eat, sleep, and live pig. All oink wildly, hoping to win part of the more than $61,050 in prizes. The competition is very serious but so is the fun. Contestants come from all continents. (At least 12 countries were represented last year.) In 2007 approximately 250 teams competed for the largest prize purse ever at this contest. You could be one of those teams next May! Team applications are now available online. To download an application click on:
Deadline for entries is usually near the end of February.
In addition to the barbecue contest, you may want to include the Sharp Stage in your itinerary. During the barbecue championship, they have world class musical entertainment AND the Ms. Piggie contest. Be sure not to get any bad barbecue before attending this contest. The Ms. Piggie contestants are grown men and the primary costumes are tutus.
It could just be a suggestion of a great time and place to be but it is also the official name of one of the two best citywide celebrations (Winnipeg's Folklorama is the other) which I have ever attended. The cornerstone events of Memphis in May are the Beale Street Music Festival, International Week, the Memphis in May World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest, and the Sunset Symphony.
The Beale Street Music Festival is usually the first weekend in May.
International Week is usually the week following the Beale Street Music Festival.
The Barbecue and other food events are usually after International Week and the festival concludes with a Subset Symphony concert along the banks of the Mississippi River.
A few thoughts about Memphis and barbecue: Barbecue is more a style of cooking than a specific food item (or items). Wherever you may travel, from the Carolinas to Korea, you may very well find something which the locals describe as "barbecue," but please do not assume that this barbecues is the same as the barbecue which you had at your last stop. In the United States, there are six generally acknowledged styles or types of barbecue: Eastern North Carolina, Western North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee (concentrated around Memphis), Kansas City, and Texas. My most detailed comments on barbecue are in my North Carolina pages but there are entries in each of the four other areas as to what tends to define the barbecue for that area.
In Memphis, barbecue comes in two varieties: pulled pork or ribs. The pulled pork is smothered in sweet tomato-based sauce, while the ribs can be ‘wet’ (coated in the same sweet sauce) or ‘dry’ (rubbed with an herb mix). Order ribs by the rack or the half-rack, and don’t forget a side of cornbread to mop up the juices.
Although it was highly recommended it also came with a warning that the area is bad day and night. Was told to make sure the bus drops you off right in front of the place or take taxi.
Was also told that if you go to the Rock N Soul Museum the information will pretty much be the same.
This is a fun tour. Your given an instrument to play while the tour guide sings songs. You are taken over the parts of the city that are related to music as well as the victorian village and civil rights museum. Their are no stops on the main tour.
You can choose to take the option that does include a stop at the Sun Studio. I recommend this option if you are a musician or history buff.
the lincoln american tower was originally named the columbia mutual insurance building. this memphis landmark was built in 1924. the tower on the top of the building is a replica of the woolworth building in new york city. the lincoln american tower is listed on the national register of historic places. for those interested in 1920's architecture the lincoln american tower is worth a look when in downtown memphis.
court square is a public park located in the heart of downtown memphis. court square was laid out in 1819 for the site of a county courthouse. a courthouse was never built on the square but during the union occupation of memphis the north side of the square was the site of irving block prison. in the center of the park is a fountain with a statue of hebe dating back to 1876. court square is listed on the national register of historic places.
forrest park is the final resting place of confederate general nathan bedford forrest. nathan bedford forrest was born in chapel hill tennessee in 1821 and died in 1877. prior to the civil war forrest owned several cotton plantations in the memphis area and a slave trading business located at 87 adams street in downtown memphis. in 1858 forrest as elected to the position of city alderman. by 1861 forrest was a millionaire and one of the richest men in the city. at the outbreak of the civil war forrest enlisted as a private in the confederate army. because of his wealth governor isham harris promoted him to lt. colonel. forrest formed a calvary division using his personal funds. during the war forrest was a veteran of over 15 battles and his famous raid on memphis. by the end of the civil war forrest had risen to the rank of lt. general. forrest park is listed on the national register of historic places.
confederate park is located on a bluff over looking mud island and the mississippi river. this small park has a statue of confederate president jefferson davis and some civil war era fortifications. the park offers a beautifull view of the mississippi river waterfront.
This small riverfront park offers some fine views of the Mississippi River, the skyline, and Mud Island. It also offers some respite from the hustle and bustle of the city streets. Just in case anyone forgets who he was, Jefferson Davis was the President of the Confederacy during the Civil War.
William Christopher Handy has been called the Father of the Blues. His statue (photo 2) is at the park entrance
The side of the monument (photo 4) says
His life is the tale of three streets, Beale Street in Memphis, Market Street in St. Louis and Broadway in New York City
The marker in photo 5 says
In memory of
W. C. Handy
Father of the Blues
Erected by the Association
of Afro-American Life and History
In Cooperation with the
This park named for him has blues music concerts and even parades down Beale Street to the park.
As if the house was not enough to keep you occupied, there are numerous museums you can visit that are housed in the home proper as well as adjacent buildings. You can see many of Elvis' awards, gold records, countless photos of the King throughout his illustrious career, and his numerous stage outfits. Thee is a whole section about his brief period in the army and one on is movie career. There's an entire museum devoted to his cars which is impressive even to the non-car aficionado but if you are in the old cars, you'll be in heaven. I guess it's no wonder he was the envy of the average middle American in the 50s/60s, he had all the American Dream symbols in quantum.. You can even board his private plane! Actually, when I write all this down, it sounds like like the admission price is a bargain. But charging for parking is a tad overkill, don't you think?
The house is not ostentatious from the outside, especially by today's standards but the interior is pretty wild though definitely a period piece. Yes, this guy was on some serious drugs. Aside from the typical rooms of residence, there were some that were reserved just the King and his court, as well as the obligatory swimming pool. The grounds are quite pastoral with stables for horses and its own cemetery where Elvis and his parents are buried.
Mike's Memphis Tours is a local man who used to live in one of Elvis' homes and who now gives personal tours of sites of interest to die-hard Elvis fans. If you want to see the ranch where he and Lisa-Marie lived for a while or go to all those off the beaten track places that have an Elvis connection then this is the tour guide for you. I have to admit I am not a huge Elvis fan so a lot of the tour was wasted on me but he is very good, full of interesting facts and will tailor the tours to what you want to see. The tours are around $50.
The Memphis Fire Museum has historic fire equipment dating back to 1870. Built in 1910, the fire house is on the National Historic Register. There is a Memorial Wall commemorating fire fighters who died in the line of duty.
The official finale to Memphis in May is the Sunset Symphony but it is an all day event. From mid-morning until after sunset there is entertainment along the banks of the Mississippi. Pack a picnic lunch (or take advantage of the vendors available to you) and bring lawn chairs or blankets and make a day of it. There is a symphony concert later in the day and the grand finale of Memphis in May following the symphony is a beautiful fireworks display.
Sunset Symphony is usually Memorial Day weekend and in 2007 will be on Saturday, May 26.