Memphis In May International Festival

Memphis, TN 38103

901-525 4611

Brief History of Memphis in May

In the early 70's, the Memphis Area Chamber of Commerce developed plans for a festival, which would serve as a promotional umbrella for the numerous events Memphis hosted each May, including the Cotton Carnival, the Danny Thomas Golf Classic, the annual visit by the Metropolitan Opera and others. The festival, originally incorporated as the "Memphis in May International Festival Society", also coordinated the grand opening festivities of the Cook Convention Center and the city's Bicentennial celebration in 1976.

With "Society" dropped from its official name, a new 501c3 nonprofit status, an initial $52,000 budget (including $32,000 surplus dollars granted to the festival by the Bicentennial event and another $20,000 from sponsors, such as First Tennessee Bank, Datsun Forklift and Federal Express), Lyman Aldrich and a group of civic minded young executives reorganized the Memphis in May International Festival and presented its first salute, honoring Japan in 1977. Martha Ellen Maxwell was the festival's first Executive Director.

The very first Beale Street Music Festival was held in 1977 at the corner of Beale and Third. The same year, the very first Sunset Symphony was held, with the Memphis Symphony Orchestra performing on a smaller, unshaven and seldom used Tom Lee Park.

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