Missing Memphis in May 2022 on the Riverfront

It feels strange not to see the set-up for Memphis in May on the riverfront. The City promises it'll be back in Tom Lee Park next year, but this year, Memphis in May will be held at Liberty Park, formerly known as the Fairgrounds and Libertyland. Click HERE for dates and to buy tickets. 

For festival lovers, the Commercial Appeal posted these 22 fun Trivia Questions (with answers at the end). 



1. When the Memphis in May International Festival was launched in 1977, the first "honored country" was ____.

a) Japan

b) Saudi Arabia

b) Mexico

d) Ukraine


2. In 2020, the festival was canceled due to the COVID pandemic; in 2021, the international salute to Ghana was postponed due to the abbreviated nature of the festival and various pandemic-related travel restrictions. Twice before, the festival did not honor a specific country. The first time was 1996, when the 20th festival was presented as a salute to all previously honored countries; the second was 2019 when, in lieu of an honored "country," the designated honoree was ____.

a) Elvis Presley

b) Memphis and Shelby County

c) "America's first responders"

d) "the blues"


3. This year's honored country is Ghana. Excluding the "all countries" year of 1996, many times in the past has Memphis in May honored a country from Africa?

a) Once.

b) Three times.

c) Six times.

d) Never.


4. Outside the "all countries" 1996 festival, what three nations have been an honored country twice? 

a) Japan, Canada and the Netherlands.

b) Russia, Spain and Mexico.

c) Brazil, France and the United Kingdom.

d) Ireland, New Zealand and China.


5. According to the Memphis in May website, which of these is not among the criteria considered by the festival board when it selects an honored country?

a) "Cultural depth and importance."

b) "Positive diplomatic relations with the U.S."

c) "Ethnic links to Memphis and the Mid-South."

d) "$. Show us the $."


6. Who was James Hyter?

a) The U.S. ambassador to Memphis in May's first honored country.

b) The vocalist whose rendition of "Ol' Man River" was an annual highlight of the Sunset Symphony.

c) The chef whose grilled raccoon dish was a mainstay of the "Anything But" pork portion of the barbecue contest.

d) The street minister who for more than 20 years passed out anti-alcohol flyers at the main entrance to Tom Lee Park.


7. Since 1990, the Memphis in May World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest has been recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records as "the largest barbecue-cooking contest in the world." This was hardly the case when the first contest was organized in 1978. According to The Commercial Appeal, the first contest...

a) "was held on a vacant lot north of the Orpheum. About 25 competitors cooked on backyard grills."

b) "was held outside the Midtown Piggly Wiggly. About 25 competitors roasted hogs on spits over an improvised bonfire."

c) "was held in the alley outside the entrance of The Rendezvous. About a dozen competitors displayed meat, which they had cooked at home, on a pair of picnic tables."

d) "attended by only one competitor, whom the judges determined had, in fact, picked up his barbecue from Tops."


8. Which of these is not the name of an actual team that will be competing at this year's Barbecue Cooking Contest?

a) Aporkalypse Now.

b) Rub Me Tender.

c) Let's Get Basted.

d) Old Man Ribber.


9. Which of the following reports do not actually appear in The Commercial Appeal's 1989 coverage of the barbecue contest?

a) Backed by "scantily clad women," a member of the Adribbers cooking team who was dressed as Miss Piggy sang: "You shake my ribs and you rattle my loins/ You broke my grill/ Oh what a thrill/ Goodness gracious, great barbecue!"

b) The "first all-female barbecue team," who called themselves PMS (Pork Matron Society), "commissioned a metalsmith to create a pink beer keg in the shape of a sow," which they dubbed "Lucille von Sow Sow, the beer-dispensing pig."

c) The PMS team performed a group number called "Pig Girls Don't Cry," backed by a band called Toxic Shock & the Syndromes.

d) A representative of the office of President George H.W.  Bush traveled to Tom Lee Park to present Lucille von Sow Sow a Presidential Medal of Freedom for "especially meritorious contribution" to the art of beer-dispensing.


10. Which of these slogans was not found on a team T-shirt or on a sign posted outside a team booth during the barbecue cooking contest in 1995 (when Memphis in May saluted Thailand)?

a) ''I love the smell of Hickory Smoke in the morning . . . it smells like VICTORY!!!'' 

b) ''You Dr. Fu Man Que? Yes, Siam.'' 

c) “Never wrestle with pigs. You both get dirty and the pig likes it.” 

d) ''The Pig Is a Filthy Animal. But Bacon Is Good.'' 


11. A fixture of Memphis in May since the festival's founding, the Sunset Symphony rode off into the, um, sunset in 2015. Music at the event was provided mostly by the Memphis Symphony Orchestra, with various guest artists. Guest pianists included Isaac Hayes, Charlie Rich, and:

a) Little Richard.

b) Liberace.

c) Billy Joel.

d) Lamar Alexander.


12. In the mid-1990s, the festival tried to broaden its slate of events beyond barbecue and "Beale Street" by organizing an annual "Tattoo," a variety-show extravaganza of military bands, dancers, acrobats and more. An expensive and time-consuming endeavor, the Tattoo was dropped after its second year. Which of these was not a feature of the 1994 Tattoo at the Pyramid? 

a) Four stilt-walkers.

b) A bagpipe band that performed "Love Me Tender."

c) Seven elephants, entering the arena floor to the sound of Richard Strauss' "Also Sprach Zarathustra" (also known as the theme from "2001: A Space Odyssey").

d) Jerry Lee Lewis, playing piano and singing "Memphis Beat" atop a pig-shaped float.


13. The first Memphis in May music festival was held in Handy Park in 1977. Which of these legends did not appear there?

a) B.B. King.

b) Phineas Newborn Jr.

c) Furry Lewis.

d) Keith Richards.


14. In 1994, back-to-back "Juniors" performed on the same Beale Street Music Festival stage. They were: 

a) Junior Walker and Junior Wells.

b) Junior Brown and Junior Kimbrough.

c) Junior Murvin and Harry Connick Jr.

d) Dinosaur Jr. and Junior.


15. In 1990, Stevie Ray Vaughan performed at the Beale Street Music Festival. Four months later, in August, he...

a) won the Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Blues Album, for "In Step."

b) played guitar on David Bowie's recording of "Let's Dance."

c) released with his brother Jimmie Vaughan the album "Family Style," which was partly recorded at Ardent in Memphis.

d) was killed in a helicopter crash.


16. In 2019, Facebook paid for this star to fly to Memphis and perform a surprise daytime mini-set during the Beale Street Music Festival. She wore an Elvis T-shirt, and brought out her own special guest, Marc Cohn, for a duet version of Cohn's hit "Walking in Memphis." She was:

a) Dolly Parton.

b) Miley Cyrus.

c) Cher.

d) Lady Gaga.


17. "Perhaps it's appropriate that one of rock's more cerebral performers would open his Beale Street Music Festival performance brandishing a human brain (or, to be precise, a prop facsimile of a human brain)." 

a) Tom Waits.

b) David Byrne.

c) Randy Newman.

d) Frank Zappa.


18. In 2016, this then 71-year-old music legend opened his set by playing a single song that stretched to an epic 35 minutes in length. Who was it?

a) Van Morrison.

b) Neil Young.

c) Iggy Pop.

d) Al Green.


19. In 2013, a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member told the crowd about making a visit to Graceland while in Memphis to perform at the festival: "We paid our respects to — I don't wanna call him the King, cause Elvis himself said there's one King and he reigns in heaven. But still and all he was our (expletive) King."

a) Bob Dylan.

b) Joan Jett.

c) Patti Smith.

d) Robin Zander of Cheap Trick.


20. This artist's 2018 Beale Street Music Festival set ran overtime so the lead vocalist and band could introduce a new song, "New World Order Blues," which described the then-President of the United States as "our degenerate-in-chief" and "an orangutan diaper of malignant rage."

a) Tav Falco and Panther Burns.

b) Chuck D and Public Enemy.

c) Steve Earle and the Dukes.

d) Brittany Howard and the Alabama Shakes.


21. Who is Xiu-Hua (pronounced "Shoo-Wah")?

a) The top female vocalist of South Korea in the early 2000s (before the current world-dominating "K-pop" era), who performed at the Orpheum during the 2003 Memphis in May salute to her home nation.

b) The Beijing design artist who traveled to Memphis to create the "official poster" for the 1987 Memphis in May salute to China.

c) The Thai rapper who created controversy and surprised festival officials with profanity-laced anti-American tirades during his show at the Beale Street Music Festival in 1995 (when the honored country was Thailand).

d) A giant panda, on loan from the Chapultepec Park Zoo in Mexico City, whose 1987 visit to the Memphis Zoo was initiated to coincide with that year's Memphis in May salute to China.


22. When it first was organized in 1976, the Memphis in May International Festival was incorporated as the:

a) Memphis in May International Festival Society.

b) Memphis in May International Festival, Carnival & Pageant.

c) Memphis in May International Festival Cooperative & Trust.

d) Memphis in May International Festival Lonely Hearts Club Band.




1. A. (Saudi Arabia and Ukraine never have been honored, but Mexico was chosen in 1984.)

2. B. (The rationale: 2019 marked the 200th anniversary of the founding of Memphis.)

3. C. (Egypt, in 1981; Kenya, 1989; Cote d’Ivoire, 1994; Morocco, 1999; South Africa, 2004; and Tunisia, 2010.)

4. A. (All the other countries mentioned have been honored once.)

5. D.

6. B. (Hyter, 87, died in 2009. Before his retirement in 1998, he had performed "Ol' Man River" at 17 editions of the Sunset Symphony.)

7. A.

8. D.

9. D.

10. C. (The quote is real, and Shaw wrote "Pygmalion," but whether there has been a barbecue team named "Pigmalion," I don't know.)