Annual Events and Festivals in Memphis

Memphis, Tennessee, is a city brimming with vibrant culture and a rich tapestry of annual events and festivals that showcase the spirit of the region. From the legendary Memphis in May International Festival to the soulful tunes of the International Blues Challenge, this guide highlights the top annual happenings that draw visitors from around the world. Whether you’re a foodie, music lover, or cultural enthusiast, Memphis’s festival calendar is packed with opportunities to celebrate the city’s heritage, culinary delights, and artistic expressions.

Key Takeaways

  • Memphis hosts a diverse array of annual events and festivals, reflecting the city’s rich cultural heritage and vibrant community spirit.
  • The Memphis in May International Festival is a highlight, featuring world-class music, cultural exchange, and a renowned BBQ cooking contest.
  • Music festivals like the Beale Street Music Festival and the International Blues Challenge are keystones, celebrating Memphis’s deep musical roots.
  • Festivals such as the Memphis Italian Festival, Rajun Cajun Fest, and Memphis Greek Festival offer authentic culinary experiences and family-friendly entertainment.
  • Events like Pride Fest, Juneteenth Celebrations, and the St Jude Marathon Weekend emphasize community engagement, support, and historical reflection.

Memphis in May International Festival

Memphis in May International Festival

The Memphis in May International Festival is a cornerstone of the city’s cultural and entertainment offerings. This month-long celebration is packed with events that cater to music lovers, foodies, and cultural enthusiasts alike.

World-Class Music Acts

Memphis in May is synonymous with spectacular music, featuring performances from internationally renowned artists that draw crowds from all over the globe. The festival’s lineup is a diverse mix of genres, ensuring there’s something for everyone.

Cultural Exchange

A key component of the festival is the cultural exchange program, which each year spotlights a different country, offering a rich tapestry of experiences that include educational programs, international exhibits, and more.

BBQ Cooking Contest

No Memphis festival would be complete without a nod to the city’s world-famous barbecue. The BBQ Cooking Contest is a highlight for many, with teams competing to create the most mouth-watering dishes. It’s a sensory overload of flavors, aromas, and good-natured rivalry.

The Memphis in May International Festival is not just an event; it’s a celebration of all the senses, a place where music, culture, and culinary arts come together to create unforgettable experiences.

  • Music: A lineup of top-tier artists and bands.
  • Culture: Spotlight on international traditions and customs.
  • Food: The legendary BBQ Cooking Contest.

Here’s a glimpse at the 2024 schedule:

May 17, 2024BBQ Alley Session #1BBQ Alley
May 17, 2024Home Depot Outdoor Kitchen DemoDemo w/Doug Scheiding, Traeger
May 17, 2024Future of…To be announced

Beale Street Music Festival

Beale Street Music Festival

The Beale Street Music Festival is a cornerstone of Memphis’s vibrant cultural scene, bringing together a diverse lineup of artists to perform in one of the city’s most historic venues. Each year, music lovers flock to this event for the chance to witness memorable performances that resonate with the spirit of Memphis.

Diverse Lineup

The festival prides itself on its eclectic mix of genres, showcasing everything from rock and blues to hip-hop and jazz. Attendees can expect a roster of both renowned international acts and local favorites, ensuring a rich musical experience.

  • Rock
  • Blues
  • Hip-hop
  • Jazz

Historic Venue

Beale Street’s legendary status as the home of the blues is just the beginning. The festival takes place amidst the neon-lit nightclubs and brick-paved streets that have hosted generations of musicians, making it a pilgrimage for music enthusiasts.

Memorable Performances

Year after year, the Beale Street Music Festival delivers performances that go down in history. Fans leave with stories of once-in-a-lifetime sets and serendipitous musical moments that capture the essence of Memphis’s rich cultural tapestry.

The Beale Street Music Festival is not just an event; it’s a celebration of the soul of Memphis, where every note played echoes the city’s deep musical heritage.

Memphis Italian Festival

Memphis Italian Festival

The Memphis Italian Festival is a vibrant celebration of Italian culture right in the heart of Memphis. Held annually at Marquette Park, this festival is a feast for the senses with a delightful array of authentic cuisine that will transport you to the streets of Italy.

Authentic Cuisine

Indulge in the flavors of Italy with an extensive selection of dishes that include classic pastas, pizzas, and decadent desserts. Food lovers rejoice as they navigate through the various food stalls, each offering a taste of Italian tradition.

Family-Friendly Activities

Families can look forward to a day filled with fun as the festival provides numerous activities for all ages. From games to arts & crafts, there’s something to keep everyone entertained. Family fun in Memphis also includes hands-on exhibits at the Children’s Museum, famous barbecue spots, and cultural immersion at the National Civil Rights Museum.

Live Entertainment

Experience the lively atmosphere with live entertainment that keeps the festival buzzing. Local and international acts take the stage to perform music that ranges from classical to contemporary Italian hits, ensuring that the air is always filled with melody.

Mark your calendars for June 1, 2024, and join hundreds of Memphians to savor the taste of Italy in the Bluff City.

Rajun Cajun Fest

Rajun Cajun Fest

The streets of Memphis come alive with the vibrant spirit of Louisiana during the Rajun Cajun Fest. This annual celebration, steeped in the rich flavors and lively music of Cajun culture, has been a staple since 1989. Revelers can indulge in authentic Cajun and Creole food, dance to the rhythm of zydeco bands, and enjoy a festive street party atmosphere that’s second to none. With family bands and zydeco stars like Wayne Touts and Chubby Carrier, the music is as spicy as the crawfish boiling in the pots.

Cajun and Creole Food

Savor the taste of Louisiana with a mouthwatering array of Cajun and Creole dishes. From spicy crawfish to jambalaya, your taste buds are in for a treat. The festival is a perfect opportunity to munch on as many mudbugs as you can handle.

Lively Street Party

The festival transforms Riverside Drive into a bustling hub of excitement. With a parade that coincides with Mardi Gras on certain years, the energy is infectious. Enjoy the festivities from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., and don’t forget your wristband for club access!

Unique Crafts

Explore a variety of unique crafts and local artistry as you stroll through the festival. It’s a great chance to find that one-of-a-kind souvenir to remember the day by.

The Rajun Cajun Fest is not just a feast for the palate but also a celebration of community and culture that brings a piece of Louisiana right to the heart of Memphis.

Pride Fest

Pride Fest

Memphis Pride Fest is a vibrant celebration of love, diversity, and acceptance, marking the most colorful weekend of the year. The festival is a beacon of positivity, where everyone is encouraged to be exactly who they are. With a mix of virtual and in-person events, the festival caters to a wide audience, ensuring that the spirit of Pride is accessible to all.

Parade and Celebration

The Memphis Pride Parade is an explosion of color and joy, a true highlight of the festival. It’s the kind of event that sees Beale Street come alive with the energy and pride of the LGBTQ+ community and its allies.

Community Support

Pride Fest is more than just a party; it’s a platform for community support and empowerment. Educational sessions, job fairs, and health resources are just a few ways the festival uplifts participants.

Live Music

Expect a lineup that spans genres and showcases talent that resonates with the message of Pride. Live music is the heartbeat of the festival, keeping the atmosphere festive and inclusive.

Embrace the full spectrum of Pride at Memphis Pride Fest, where every color shines bright and every voice is heard.

  • Virtual and in-person events
  • Inclusive and empowering atmosphere
  • Educational and health resources
  • Vibrant live music and entertainment

Juneteenth Celebrations

Juneteenth Celebrations

Memphis honors the end of slavery in the United States with a series of Juneteenth Celebrations that resonate with cultural significance and community pride. These events offer a time for reflection, education, and jubilation across various locations in the city.

Historical Reflection

The celebrations kick off with a focus on historical reflection, providing an opportunity for the community to look back at the past and acknowledge the progress made in the fight for equality and freedom.

Cultural Performances

Expect to witness a vibrant display of cultural performances that bring the rich heritage of African American culture to life. From music and dance to spoken word, these performances are a cornerstone of the festivities.

Community Engagement

Community engagement is at the heart of Juneteenth in Memphis. The city comes together to support local businesses, engage in meaningful dialogue, and participate in events that foster a sense of unity and collective growth.

Juneteenth in Memphis is not just a day on the calendar; it’s a reflection of the city’s ongoing commitment to honoring its African American heritage and promoting a future of inclusivity and understanding.

Memphis’s museums showcase music history, civil rights, and cultural heritage. Must-visit museums include Pink Palace, National Civil Rights, Sun Studio, Graceland, Memphis Rock ‘n’ Soul, Stax, Cotton, and Memphis Music Hall of Fame.

River Arts Fest

River Arts Fest

Artists’ Market

The River Arts Fest is a vibrant celebration of the arts in Memphis, showcasing an Artists’ Market where local and regional artists display their work. Expect to find a variety of mediums, from paintings and photography to handmade jewelry and sculptures.

Live Demonstrations

Engage with art in real-time as you witness artists creating masterpieces right before your eyes. These live demonstrations provide a unique opportunity to see the creative process unfold and to learn directly from the artists themselves.

Hands-On Activities

Families and art enthusiasts of all ages can participate in hands-on activities, making their own art to take home. It’s a fun way to get involved and experience the joy of creating something unique.

The River Arts Fest is not just an event; it’s a community experience that brings together art lovers and creators in a celebration of creativity and craftsmanship.

  • Location: Downtown Memphis
  • Dates: Typically held in October
  • Admission: Often free for children, with a small fee for adults

International Blues Challenge

The International Blues Challenge is the pinnacle event for blues musicians worldwide, often referred to as the Blues Grammys. It’s a prestigious competition that showcases the best up-and-coming blues artists in the industry. Taking place in downtown Memphis, the event coincides with the Beale Street Music Festival, creating an electrifying atmosphere for blues enthusiasts.

Blues Competitions

The heart of the challenge lies in its fierce competitions. Artists from around the globe converge to demonstrate their talents and vie for the top honors. The stakes are high, and the performances are nothing short of spectacular.

Up-and-Coming Artists

Discover new blues sensations as they take the stage, each bringing their unique style and passion to the forefront. This is where future blues legends are born, and you can say you saw them here first.

Legendary Venues

Explore Memphis’ vibrant music scene through iconic venues like New Daisy Theatre and B.B. King’s Blues Club. Dive into the city’s rich musical history at landmarks like Sun Studio and Memphis Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum.

The International Blues Challenge is not just a competition; it’s a celebration of blues culture that brings together musicians, fans, and industry professionals in a city that breathes music history.

Wine Race on Beale

Wine Race on Beale

The Wine Race on Beale is an annual event that combines the sophistication of wine with the vibrant street culture of Memphis. Participants race through the historic Beale Street, balancing trays of wine glasses in a test of speed and agility. It’s not just about the race; the event also offers a chance to savor a variety of wines in a festive atmosphere.

Wine Tasting

Wine enthusiasts gather to sample a selection of fine wines from various regions. Whether you’re a connoisseur or a casual sipper, the tasting event provides an opportunity to discover new favorites and learn more about the subtleties of wine.

Waiters’ Race

The highlight of the event is the Waiters’ Race, where servers from local restaurants compete in a thrilling dash, balancing trays laden with wine glasses. It’s a spectacle of skill and concentration that always draws a crowd.

Festive Atmosphere

Beale Street comes alive with music, laughter, and camaraderie. The Wine Race creates a convivial environment where friends and strangers alike can enjoy the spirit of competition and celebration.

The Wine Race on Beale is more than just a competition; it’s a celebration of community, culture, and the finer things in life.

St Jude Marathon Weekend

St Jude Marathon Weekend

Memphis is not just about music and barbecue; it’s also a city that comes together for a cause. The St Jude Marathon Weekend is a testament to that spirit. Every year, thousands of runners hit the streets to support St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. It’s not just a race; it’s a weekend of community, compassion, and challenge.

Marathon and Half-Marathon

The centerpiece of the weekend is the marathon and half-marathon, where participants from all walks of life strive to cross the finish line. Whether you’re a seasoned athlete or a first-time runner, the sense of accomplishment is unparalleled.

  • Marathon: 26.2 miles of determination
  • Half-Marathon: 13.1 miles of perseverance

Fundraising for a Cause

Every stride taken is a step towards helping children battling cancer and other life-threatening diseases. Runners are encouraged to become St. Jude Heroes by fundraising, which goes directly to the hospital’s lifesaving mission.

  • Set a fundraising goal
  • Share your story to inspire donations
  • Celebrate every donation as a victory

Community Spirit

The marathon weekend is more than just a race; it’s a celebration of the Memphis community’s heart and soul. Volunteers line the course, cheering on participants, and local bands play, creating an electrifying atmosphere.

The St Jude Marathon Weekend embodies the generous spirit of Memphis, bringing together people from all over to support a noble cause.

Remember, whether you’re running, volunteering, or cheering, you’re part of something much bigger than just a marathon. You’re part of a community that believes in hope and healing.

Memphis Greek Festival

Memphis Greek Festival

The Memphis Greek Festival is a vibrant celebration of Greek culture, steeped in tradition and brimming with life. Held annually, this festival transforms the city into a slice of Greece, right in the heart of Memphis. Experience authentic Greek cuisine that goes beyond the beloved baklava; savor the flavors of succulent kabobs and a variety of other Greek specialties. The festival is not just about food, though—it’s a cultural immersion.

Authentic Cuisine

Indulge in a feast for the senses with an array of traditional Greek dishes. From the savory to the sweet, every bite is a testament to the rich culinary heritage of Greece. Here’s a taste of what you can expect:

  • Gyros filled with perfectly seasoned meat
  • Spanakopita with its flaky pastry and hearty spinach filling
  • Loukoumades, a sweet honey-soaked delight

Family-Friendly Activities

The Memphis Greek Festival is a family affair, offering a range of activities that cater to all ages. Children can enjoy games and crafts, while adults explore the Greek Boutique for unique finds. Remember to bring 3 cans to donate to the Mid-South Food Bank for free entry!

Live Entertainment

Be captivated by the rhythmic dance performances that tell stories of Greek history and mythology. The music and dance are not just entertainment; they are an invitation to participate in a tradition that has been passed down through generations.

The Memphis Greek Festival is more than an event; it’s a community celebration that brings together people from all walks of life to share in the joy of Greek culture.

With over 10,000 attendees each year, the festival has become a beloved Mid-South tradition. Mark your calendars for September 20-21 and become part of this unforgettable experience.

Elvis Week

Elvis Week

Tribute to the King

Elvis Week in Memphis is a vibrant tribute to the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll, Elvis Presley. Fans from across the globe flock to Graceland to honor his legacy through a series of events that capture the spirit of Elvis’s life and music. The highlight of the week is the traditional proclamation of Elvis Presley Day, which takes place on the front lawn of Graceland, his iconic home.

Graceland Pilgrimage

The pilgrimage to Graceland is a must for any Elvis enthusiast. It’s a chance to walk in the footsteps of the legend himself and experience the mansion that was his sanctuary. Visitors can expect a miniversion of the big event during the birthday celebration, but the main festivities occur in August, marking the anniversary of his passing.

Elvis-Themed Events

Elvis Week is packed with a variety of Elvis-themed events, including:

  • Live music performances
  • The Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Contest
  • Panel discussions and dances
  • A 5k run
  • The annual candlelight vigil

This week-long festival not only celebrates the music and career of Elvis but also brings together fans in a community of shared passion and remembrance.


As we’ve explored the vibrant tapestry of annual events and festivals in Memphis, it’s clear that the city’s calendar is brimming with excitement all year round. From the soulful rhythms of Beale Street’s music festivals to the rich cultural celebrations like Juneteenth and the Memphis in May International Festival, there’s an event for every interest. Whether you’re a local or a visitor, the array of activities ranging from holiday traditions to food fests and neighborhood gatherings ensures that there’s never a dull moment in Memphis. Keep this guide handy, sign up for local e-news, and immerse yourself in the spirited atmosphere of Memphis’s festivals—where every season brings a new reason to celebrate.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are some of the most popular annual events in Memphis?

Memphis hosts a variety of popular events each year, including the Memphis in May International Festival, Beale Street Music Festival, Memphis Italian Festival, Rajun Cajun Fest, Pride Fest, Juneteenth Celebrations, River Arts Fest, International Blues Challenge, Wine Race on Beale, St Jude Marathon Weekend, Memphis Greek Festival, and Elvis Week.

When is the Beale Street Music Festival held?

The Beale Street Music Festival is typically held in early May as part of the Memphis in May International Festival.

Can you tell me more about the Memphis in May International Festival?

The Memphis in May International Festival is a month-long event that features world-class music acts, a cultural exchange program, and a renowned BBQ cooking contest.

What is the Rajun Cajun Fest?

The Rajun Cajun Fest is a lively street party in Memphis that celebrates Cajun and Creole food, offers unique crafts, and provides a festive atmosphere for all attendees.

What activities can I expect at the Memphis Italian Festival?

At the Memphis Italian Festival, you can enjoy authentic Italian cuisine, family-friendly activities, and live entertainment.

Is there a festival in Memphis that focuses on LGBTQ+ pride?

Yes, Memphis hosts Pride Fest, which includes a parade and celebration, community support, and live music to honor and uplift the LGBTQ+ community.

What does the River Arts Fest in Memphis offer?

The River Arts Fest in Memphis features an artists’ market, live demonstrations, and hands-on activities for visitors of all ages.

Are there any events in Memphis that cater to blues music fans?

Absolutely, the International Blues Challenge is an event for blues music enthusiasts that showcases blues competitions, up-and-coming artists, and performances at legendary venues in Memphis.

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