To paraphrase TS Eliot: April is the coolest month, breeding food festivals out of a hungry land.
Healthy Memphis Food Festival
Where: Water Tower on Broad
When: Saturday, April 11th, 9 a.m.-8 p.m. and Sunday, April 12th, 10 a.m.- 6 p.m.
As a general principle, those preparing for beach vacations might be advised to avoid food festivals — but Healthy Memphis is the exception to the rule. At this two-day shindig on Broad Avenue, funnel cakes are out and grilled sweet corn is in.
Healthy Memphis is transforming the Water Tower into a mini marketplace filled with healthy food, music, art, and fitness. Forget hot-dog eating contests. They've got yoga, reflexology, aromatherapy, acupuncture, and personal training classes. Admission is free, and if you bring a bag of nonperishable food, you'll be entered to win healthy prizes from participating vendors.
Come for: Tasty food from local vendors like Belly Acres and Cosmic Coconut
Stay for: Gospel music on Sunday, performed by East Trigg Avenue Baptist Church
Overton Square Crawfish Festival
Where: Madison Avenue, Cooper to Morrison
When: Saturday, April 11th, noon-6 p.m.
Money can't buy happiness. But it can buy crawfish, and — the Overton Square team assures me — that's pretty much the same thing. Now in its 20th year, this crawfish festival has gone from humble beginnings in the parking lot of Bayou Bar & Grill to shutting down Madison Avenue.
Known for its hot lineup of regional musicians, this year's event also features booths from Memphis businesses — 46 in all — including Memphis Roller Derby, Makeda's Butter Cookies, and Bikram yoga. Pro tip: Bring a good hat and come prepared to hula hoop.
Come for: Custom cocktails made with Memphis' own Pyramid Vodka
Stay for: The Juke Joint Duo, featuring Lightnin' Malcolm and Cedric Burnside
Mid-South Food Truck Fest
Where: Tiger Lane
When: Saturday, April 18th, 10 a.m.-6 p.m.
In a world where diners demand food that is innovative, cheap, and quick, the food truck reigns supreme. So it's no surprise that Memphis is getting a food truck festival. What may surprise you is the sheer number of food trucks at this event: 73. They're coming from all over the region, serving everything from Cajun to Cuban to Chinese.
Participating trucks will compete to win prizes in five categories, including Finger Food, Sweet Treat, and People's Choice. There will be live music and bouncy castles for the kids — but be forewarned, this is a dry event. A portion of proceeds will be donated to Literacy Mid-South, which will be handing out free children's books.
Come for: Gourmet grilled cheese from St. Louis food truck The Meltdown
Stay for: Spicy beef empanadas from Jackson, TN, food truck La Cubanita
Where: AutoZone Park
When: Saturday, April 18th, 4 p.m.-7:30 p.m.
Looking to slake your thirst after Food Truck Fest? Head on over to Memphis Brewfest, where they're celebrating America's great craft beers, plus exotic beers from around the world — more than 100 in all. Tickets start at $45, but a $75 VIP ticket will get you express entry, a goody bag, and access to a classy buffet. No pets or children allowed, and that's probably a good thing.
Come for: Terrapin Tree Hugger Amber Ale — light and malty
Stay for: Wiseacre's new Avast! Pirate Porter — notes of molasses and coriander
Porter-Leath Rajun Cajun Crawfish Festival
Where: Wagner Place and Riverside
When: Sunday, April 19th, 11 a.m.-6 p.m.
You may not need a reason to get down with some spicy boiled crawfish, but in case you do, here's a good one: Every dollar you spend at Rajun Cajun goes to support Memphis' at-risk children and their families. That means field trips with foster grandparents and warm coats in winter. How's that for enabling?
Each year, Memphis nonprofit Porter-Leath fetches 18,000 pounds of crawfish from Louisiana and serves it to about 25,000 festival attendees. This year, they've added an hors d'oeuvre: 2,000 pounds of spicy Gulf shrimp. Crustaceans not your thing? There will be food trucks, three stages of live music, and a gumbo cook-off.
Come for: Hurricanes and margaritas made with real rum and tequila.
Stay for: Memphis "swamp soul" band Marcella & Her Lovers
Southern Hot Wing Festival
Where: Jefferson Davis Park
When: Saturday, April 25th, 11 a.m.-7 p.m.
What's the best way to get ready for a balmy summer? Load up on hot wings, obviously. At this off-the-wall competition, team names tend toward the absurd. Examples: Winga Linga Ding Dong, You Are The Ranch Beneath My Wings. But it's all for a good cause, so we can get behind it. Each year, all proceeds are donated to Ronald McDonald House. Tickets start at $10.
Come for: Blues guitarist Eric Gales on the Jack Pirtles Chicken Stage
Stay for: The messy awesomeness that is the hot-wing eating contest