This year’s Memphis in May World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest may be back at Tom Lee Park after last year’s hiatus at Tiger Lane, but that doesn’t mean the planners aren’t facing unique challenges.
Last year, that challenge was moving nearly 350 tents of teams, sponsors, stages and vendors to the Mid-South Fairgrounds in less than 48 hours, and reconfiguring all participants treating the Liberty Bowl Stadium as the Mississippi River.
“Normally, it’s very simple,” Architecture Inc. principal Joey Hagan told The Daily News last May. “We’ve got a map of Tom Lee Park and the mapping each year is really something like, ‘Move the Pronto Pup guy down 500 feet.’ Never anything like, ‘Move all 247 teams and the sponsors and the judges and everything to the fairgrounds.’”
This will be Architecture Inc.’s fifth year to complete the entire Memphis In May International Festival site plans pro-bono.
But this year, Hagan said with the new Beale Street Landing project under construction and taking up close to four acres, valuable space is pre-occupied. For Music Fest, the boat landing, dock and park at the foot of Beale Street is taking up part of the area where the Northern main stage would be. And for BBQ Fest, it’s making the quarters tighter than normal.
“We’ve had to regroup,” Hagan said. “That doesn’t sound like a lot of land until you go down to the BBQ Fest or the Music Fest because they use every square inch of dirt at Tom Lee Park. Particularly when you have 400 teams setting up booths, so the influx of the Beale Street Landing project really has been kind of a challenge to try to regain that space and reorganize everybody so that everybody has enough room and all that stuff. There’s no more land, so we’re just squeezing it up.”