Memphis in May reports loss of $1.9M, low attendance after move to fairgrounds this year

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Moving from the Mississippi riverfront to the Liberty Park fairgrounds resulted in a dramatic decline in attendance for Memphis in May this year.

Event organizers reported a record financial loss and the lowest attendance in two decades.

Liberty Park served as a temporary location in 2022 for two of the city’s most popular large-scale events: Beale Street Music Festival and the World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest.

For the first time in over 20 years, combined attendance for the two events fell below 115,000, according to a release from Memphis in May.

By comparison, both events attracted 175,330 attendees in 2019 and 178,478 attendees in 2018.

The organization projects a record-setting financial loss of approximately $1.9 million from the 2022 festival operations.

The organization’s previous record financial loss occurred in 2020 when the festival was forced to cancel due to COVID, and sustained a $1.8 million loss, the release said.

Memphis in May presented two reduced-scale events in 2021 due to the ongoing COVID pandemic.

Final financial data will be released by Memphis in May at their Annual Meeting in August when the organization issues its annual report, along with an economic impact study for 2022.

The festival produces millions in annual tax revenue and supports thousands of local jobs, the release said.

City-wide hotel/motel occupancy peaked at 88.8% during the Beale Street Music Festival and World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest and produced average daily room rates topping $268, a significant increase compared to normal rates.

The 46th edition of the Memphis in May International Festival will return to Tom Lee Park in 2023.