For all the things that sometimes divide us, Memphians have a knack for coming together. Anyone seeking proof need only refer to photos of the streets outside the National Civil Rights Museum last week, when crowds converged to commemorate the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. I was downtown that morning, and I saw black and white people, and young people and men and women old enough to remember April 4, 1968. I saw people coming together. And coming together is one of the things we're good at in Memphis, right up there with making genre-bending music and getting really, incredibly invested in basketball. Whether it's in remembrance or in celebration, whether we're standing up for our city or sitting down with a plate of crawfish and corn on the cob, here's our comprehensive guide to the Mid-South's fairs and festivals.
Lucero Family Block Party Hometown heroes Lucero bring the turned-up twang with their annual block party, a celebration of alt-country, roots rock, or whatever the heck you want to call it at Minglewood Hall. Turnpike Troubadours, Deer Tick, Louise Page, and Mighty Souls Brass Band will round out the all-star lineup. Minglewood Hall, 1928 Poplar, April 14th, 3 p.m. $25-150.
Overton Square Crawfish Festival Spring has officially sprung when traffic in Overton Square shuts down for the Crawfish Festival. This annual outdoor celebration proves that the humble mudbug can draw quite a crowd as Midtown turns out for the one-day festival. Overton Square, April 14th. Free.
- Rajun Cajun Crawfish Festival
Rajun Cajun Crawfish Festival The 26th annual Rajun Cajun festival benefits Porter-Leath and is expected to draw up to 35,000 attendees. The free festival features live music, crawfish bobbing, crawfish eating, and crawfish racing. This year, 24 gumbo teams will compete in the annual Cash Saver Gumbo Cook-Off to vie for the skillet trophy and a cash prize. Wagner Place and Riverside Drive, between Union and Beale, April 15th, 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Free.
River Series at Harbor Town Amphitheater The River Series kicked off on April 1st with performances by Little Bandit and Coco Hames, adopted Memphian and former bandleader of the Ettes, but there are still more concerts to come. If a Sunday afternoon of music on the banks of the Mississippi isn't enough to get your attention, the proceeds benefit the Maria Montessori School. And the lineup for the rest of the season is jam-packed with eclectic music pairings, including Wreckless Eric with Flyer music editor Alex Greene on April 15th, and Los Cantadores with local songwriter extraordinaire Mark Edgar Stuart on April 29th. Stuart has made many a grown man cry with his heartbreakingly honest "Remote Control" off his Blues for Lou LP; so don't sleep on this one. Harbor Town Amphitheater. April 15th and 29th.
Africa in April Cultural Awareness Festival The 32nd annual Africa in April cultural awareness festival honors Equatorial Guinea. This family-friendly festival is four days of food, music, and a diverse cultural marketplace in Robert Church Park downtown. Each day of the festival has a different theme showcasing different aspects of the featured country. Beale Street & Robert Church Park. April 19th-23rd. Admission $5-10.
Southern Hot Wing Festival If wings are your thing, then this wing-tastic festival is a can't miss. Features a super-messy wing-eating contest, a corn hole contest, and live music on two stages. Tons of fun for everyone. Plus, guests can sample the wings with a donation to the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Memphis. Tiger Lane, April 21st, 11 a.m.-7 p.m.
Bacon and Bourbon Fresh off the success of our first Whiskey Warmer, we're hosting the third annual Bacon and Bourbon, one of the Flyer's signature events. It's an evening of bourbon and pork tastings, with live music and all kinds of additional fun activities. What is best in life? It's simple — whiskey and bacon. Memphis Farmers Market, April 21st, 6-9 p.m. Admission $38.
Kaleidoscope Food Festival The second annual Kaleidoscope Festival continues the tradition of bringing the tastes of diverse cultures to one place — Wiseacre Brewery. Children and dogs are welcome at this festival celebrating the diverse neighborhood of Binghampton — and all the cultures that make the neighborhood so unique. Wiseacre Brewery, 2783 Broad, April 21st, 1-7 p.m. Free.
Tambourine Bash A party at Old Dominick with music by Chinese Connection Dub Embassy and the ShotGunBillys, the Tambourine Bash benefits Music Export Memphis and will help fund their new Ambassador program. The goal is to train touring musicians in ways to help promote the Bluff City, essentially to become ambassadors for Memphis. Old Dominick Distillery, April 19th, 7-10 p.m. $25-50.
V&E Greenline Art Walk Set against a neighborhood park in the Voluntine and Evergreen area, this art walk finds attendees strolling between artist booths and massive shade trees. This family-friendly fund-raiser supports the V&E Greenline and park, with live music as well as food and art vendors. V&E Greenline, April 28th, 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Free.
Beale Street Wine Race It takes grit to make it in the service industry, especially in the heavy-bevy central of downtown Memphis. So when servers compete in the Wine Race, , only the swiftest and most fleet of feet will be crowned champion. Fans of the race gather downtown to cheer on their favorite bartenders and servers as they compete in the Olympics of drunken, downtown races. April 29th, 1 p.m. Free.
Memphis in May Beale Street Music Festival BSMF always kicks off Memphis in May, the month-long, city-wide celebration of music, culture, and barbecue. Three days of music on the Mississippi River, BSMF is Memphis at its most turned up, ready to revel in rock-and-roll and show off the Bluff City to the thousands of people the festival draws from around the Mid-South. Some highlights from this year's lineup include Jack White (who just released one of his most experimental — and coolest — records to date), Alanis Morissette, Erykah Badu (!), and the Flaming Lips. The hometown talent on display includes Tav Falco and the Panther Burns and Chinese Connection Dub Embassy. Tom Lee Park, May 4th-6th, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. $125.
Levitt Shell Concert Series This summer marks the 10th anniversary of the remodeled Levitt Shell's free concert series. One of the most historic venues in town, the Shell has been host to a star-studded roll call of talented musicians (Elvis Presley and Mudboy in the Neutrons, for starters). In its 10 years of operation, the Levitt Shell has put on more than 500 free, family-friendly concerts in Overton Park. Performers this year will include Memphis' own Harlan T. Bobo, the Blind Boys of Alabama, and North Mississippi All-Stars. This year's series will include three ticketed "Stars at the Shell" concerts, and if prior "Stars" shows are anything to go by (Mavis Staples! Emmylou Harris!), these won't be events to miss. Levitt Shell, May 31st through July 15th; and September 6th through October 21st. 7:30 p.m. in the summer, 7 p.m. in the fall. Free.
Memphis Greek Festival The Memphis Greek Festival is celebrating 60 years of Greek culture, food, and dancing. The congregation of Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church invites Memphians on a getaway to the 60th annual festival. This year's festivities feature a marketplace and the music of the Kostas Kastanis. Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church, 573 N. Highland, May 11-12th, 11 a.m.-8 p.m. $3 or three canned items.
Memphis in May World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest There's no better time to pig out on pulled pork than the Memphis in May World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest, aka Barbecue Fest. And every summer, the third weekend of May means downtown Memphis is sailing on a sea of barbecue sauce (and, of course, beer. Lots of beer). But is it vinegar or tomato based? (The sauce, not the beer.) Pulled or chopped? While most days, a strongly held opinion on the proper presentation of pork can be grounds for fisticuffs, this weekend is about celebrating the humble hog in all its forms. Tom Lee Park, May 16th-19th, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. $5 donation per vehicle.
901Fest The celebratory cap on the Memphis in May International Festival, 901Fest glorifies all things Memphis. This year's lineup has yet to be released, but it's sure to feature some Memphis favorites. With the Mississippi as a backdrop, 901Fest is the city's wind-down party after the month-long festivities of Memphis in May. Tom Lee Park, May 26th, 11 a.m.-8 p.m.
Memphis Italian Festival With trivia, live music, and a stomach-rumbling, drool-inducing selection of food vendors, this family-friendly festival celebrates Italian-American heritage in Marquette Park in East Memphis. The Holy Rosary Parish brings together food, music, and vendors for a weekend-long celebration. Marquette Park, 4946 Alrose, June 1st-3rd.
- Don Perry
- The Memphis Flyer Margarita Festival
The Memphis Flyer Margarita Festival What's your flavor? Standard-issue lime or perhaps something a little more adventurous? Blended or on the rocks? There's no need to get salty — the Flyer's fourth annual Margarita Festival offers Memphians the chance to cool down by sampling margaritas from some of Memphis' hottest restaurants. Overton Park Greensward, June 2nd, 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Admission $38.
FedEx St. Jude Classic Golf for a good cause, the St. Jude Classic is celebrating its 60th year. The professional tournament brings golfers to Memphis as a stop on the PGA tour. This year, returning champion Daniel Berger, who won in 2016 and 2017, competes to be the third person to have won the tournament three or more times. TPC Southwind, June 4th-10th.
Belvedere Chamber Music Festival Making classical music available in a rock-and-soul town, Luna Nova Music's 12th annual Chamber Music Festival will feature works from the 20th century, including Debussy, Ibert, and Piazolla, as well as works by Luna Nova composers. Grace-St. Luke's Episcopal Church, June 20th-23rd at 7:30 p.m. Free.
Memphis Juneteenth Urban Music Festival Observed across the country on June 19th, Juneteenth is a commemoration of African-American Emancipation Day. The lineup has yet to be released, but last year's celebration featured a performance by the Bo-Keys, so the bar is set high. Taking place on Father's Day weekend, the festival features a job fair and a youth talent show as part of its mission to emphasize education and achievement. Robert R. Church Park, June 16th-18th. Free.
Memphis Literary Arts Festival The Center for Southern Literary Arts is throwing the inaugural Literary Arts Festival this June in the historic Edge district. The festival will feature a street fair, 30 presenters, group panels, discussions, and readings. The list of award-winning authors and local literary guests is set to drop just as this issue goes to press, so watch for more information as the date nears. June 16th. Free.
Anime Blues Con This three-day festival is a celebration of Japanese culture, anime and manga, cosplay, comics, and video games. In addition to the cosplay contest and a formal ball, this year's convention features special guests Josh Grille (Attack on Titan), Vic Mignogna (Fullmetal Alchemist), and Jen Brown, the voice of Harley Quinn for DC Universe Online. Memphis Cook Convention Center, June 29th-July 1st. $35-$80.
The Memphis Flyer's Burger Week Break out your stretchy pants, because Burger Week is back for its third (!) year. It's our annual celebration of some of the best burgers Bluff City has to offer. Participating restaurants will offer specialty burgers for a special price July 11th through July 18th. Please remember to tip, because great service and one-of-a-kind burger creations are worth it. Various locations.
WEVL Blues on the Bluff Longtime Best of Memphis winners WEVL haven't released the lineup for this year's Blues on the Bluff yet, but previous shindigs have included performances by all-stars such as Julien Baker, the Bo-Keys, and Ghost Town Blues Band. (Full disclosure: I host the My Morning Mixtape program for WEVL.) Live music, beer, and barbecue all served on the picturesque grounds of the Metal Museum, make Blues on the Bluff one of the summer's signature parties. Even better, as a fund-raiser for the 42-year-old independent radio station, it's a party for a good cause. 374 Metal Museum Drive, July 22nd, 6 p.m.
Memphis Zine Fest From the Dadaist manifestos of the early 20th century to the zine boom of the '90s, creators have found ways to get their voices heard on their own terms. Memphis Zine Fest celebrates the creators who believe there's room for physical media in the Information Age. Viva la print, baby! Details to be announced.
Elvis Week Each year, Elvis fans from all over the world hop on the "Mystery Train" to Memphis for this weeklong tribute to the King of Rock-and-Roll. Marking the 41st anniversary of Elvis' death, this celebration honors the musical legacy, from Sun to RCA, of one of Memphis' most successful pioneers and includes highlights from his extensive musical catalogue, his films, performances by tribute artists, and, of course, the Candlelit Vigil at Graceland. Various locations. August 11-19th.
Ostrander Awards It seems the theater scene in Memphis just keeps growing. From Playhouse to the Hattiloo to Theatre Memphis to the Orpheum for touring performances, theater lovers in Memphis are spoiled for choice and could be forgiven for sometimes forgetting that not all cities of Memphis' size have so much programming to boast of. And the Ostrander Awards are all about taking a moment to appreciate the theater talent on hand in the Bluff City. The annual awards ceremony honors excellence in the Memphis theater community and celebrates the best work of the previous year's season. The Orpheum Theatre, August 26th, 6 p.m.
Rock for Love The annual benefit concert for the Church Health Center, Rock for Love brings together some of the best bands and most singular solo acts for a good cause. Founded in 2007, this music series is a weekend of special concerts on different stages across the city. Dates and locations to be announced.
Delta Fair & Music Festival The Delta Fair & Music Festival is cause to celebrate. Because you just can't stay home by yourself and eat a Pronto Pup and a funnel cake and hold onto your self-respect. This annual festival features Delta music, rides, games, livestock shows, and food vendors. Plus, did we already mention funnel cakes? Agricenter. September 1st-10th. $10.
- Jamie Harmon
- Delta Fair & Music Festival
Memphis Music and Heritage Festival The nonprofit Center for Southern Folklore presents performances by artists of all stripes — musicians, dancers, poets — celebrating the unique cultural heritage of the Mid-South. There are blues, folk, and jazz performances, and that hardly scratches the surface, as two blocks downtown along South Main are transformed into a celebration of the culture and the rhythms of the South. September 1st-2nd.
Southern Heritage Classic Cultural Celebration Held at the Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium and generating somewhere in the neighborhood of $21 million for the Memphis economy, the Southern Heritage Classic is the annual game between Jackson State and Tennessee State. Each year, upwards of 45,000 fans descend on Memphis for the game, a tailgate party, and a weekend of music, fun, and football. September 6th-8th.
Germantown Festival Not only is the Germantown Festival one of the longest continuously run festivals in the Memphis area, it may be the only festival in the area to offer an auto show, live entertainment, and most importantly, the running of the weenies dog race. The 47th annual Germantown Festival provides a free, family-friendly weekend. 7745 Poplar Pike, Germantown, Saturday, September 8th, 9:30 a.m.-6 p.m.; Sunday, September 9th, noon-6 p.m. Free.
- Bryan Rollins
- Cooper-Young Festival
Cooper-Young Festival Held in Memphis' largest historic district and featuring live music, art vendors, handcrafted goods, and food and beer vendors on every corner, Cooper-Young Fest is Midtown's yearly family reunion. The festivities kick off with the Friday Four-Miler the night before the official shindig, and the main event on Saturday offers food, artwork, and live music until sunset. This year's lineup hasn't been announced, but highlights from past festivals include performances from Cory Banan and James & the Ultrasounds. Cooper-Young neighborhood. September 15th, 9 a.m.-7 p.m.
Mid-South Fair This annual festival is over 160 years old and is one of the only festivals listed in these pages that features both a horticulture show and carnival rides. And we haven't even mentioned the historic talent contest (whose previous contestants included a young Elvis Presley) or the stunt dog show or the concerts. And I'm pretty sure they have funnel cakes here, too. Southaven. September 20th-30th.
Gonerfest 15 One night last autumn, I ran into a gaggle of leather-clad Japanese musicians outside the Cash Saver. Huddled in the parking lot of the Madison Avenue store, they pulled out a Gonerfest program and invited me to their upcoming show. After some juggling of vegetables and growlers of Memphis beer, we exchanged CDs and handshakes and went on our way. Every year, in addition to bringing garage and punk-rock bands to Memphis from all over the world, Goner Records' Gonerfest makes those kinds of weirdly magical meetings possible. And for that, we should all thank our friendly, neighborhood record store. Multiple locations. September 27th-30th.
Mid-South Pride Festival If you have never been to the Pride Festival, I recommend you remedy that this September. The festival takes over downtown with live music, talent shows, vendors, and the most colorful and diverse parade I've ever seen winding its way around the FedExForum. Mid-South Pride is the largest gathering of the LGBTQ community in the Mid-South, and the event celebrates inclusion and diversity and features musical performances, vendors, and a parade. September 28th-30th.
Unreal Film Festival Fans of the strange and macabre, the far out and fantastical, rejoice! Founded in 2011 by Cellardoor Cinema, the Unreal Film Fest focuses on horror, sci-fi, and fantasy feature-length and short films. September 22nd-24th.
Outflix Film Festival Every year, the Outflix Film Festival presents a film program diverse in themes and genres. One of the many excellent examples of Memphis' growing film community, Outflix is a program of OUTMemphis, an organization that empowers, connects, educates, and advocates for the LGBTQ community of the Mid-South. Details to be announced.
MEMPHO Music Festival Memphis' newest music festival returns this year to Shelby Farms Park. MEMPHO Fest features a mix of local and touring talent for a booty-shaking, eardrum-busting good time. Last year's festival featured performances by Cage the Elephant and Jason Isbell alongside local stalwarts Dead Soldiers and Star & Micey. October 6th-7th.
Pink Palace Crafts Fair The best donuts I've ever tasted, I bought at the Pink Palace Crafts Fair. They were sweet and warm, crunchy on the outside with a soft center, and I ate more than I should have. And to get to those melt-in-your-mouth confections, attendees at the Crafts Fair walk past stalls packed with handcrafted wares, a stage with live music, a kids' area with a train (!) and petting zoo, and past live demonstrations and information booths. As a celebration of artisan food and craft vendors, and as an educational opportunity, the Crafts Fair is the quintessential fall festival. And did I mention those heavenly donuts? Audubon Park. October 12th-14th, 10 a.m.-6 p.m., 10 a.m.-5 p.m. on Sunday. $9 for adults, $7 for seniors/military, and $3 for children.
Cooper-Young Beerfest In its ninth year, the Cooper-Young Beerfest is an open-air neighborhood party and a celebration of the best of regional beer. Every brewery featured in the festival is within a day's drive of the Bluff City. How's that for drinking local? All proceeds from the event go to benefit the Cooper-Young Community Association. 795 Cooper. October 20th. $45.
Deep Blues Festival This festival, located in nearby Clarksdale, Mississippi, is a weekend devoted to the tradition of the blues. This year's lineup includes Big George Brock, Jimbo Mathus, Psychotic Reaction (talk about a great band name), and Alvin Youngblood Hart. The Shack Up Inn and the New Roxy in Clarksdale, Mississippi. October 11th-14th.
Mid-South Renaissance Fair Travel back in time to a Renaissance-era festival to browse the merchant rows, join musicians in merry song, and revel in games of skill or chance. You can even get knighted by Queen Elizabeth I, learn courtly dances, appreciate Renaissance art, and cheer on your favorite jouster. Join us for a giant turkey leg and a hearty "Hip Hip! Huzzah!" in the Shire of Shelby. 4351 Babe Howard Blvd, Millington. October 13th-14th and 20th-21st.
RiverArtsFest Autumn in Memphis offers a golden window for strolling along South Main, locally brewed ale in hand. Summers are sticky and insect-infested, and winters, even the mildest ones, tend to linger on the dreary and gray side of the spectrum. But autumn offers a bug-free couple of months with a pleasantly crisp chill that is the perfect excuse for a light sweater and an early-afternoon toddy. What I'm getting at is that RiverArtsFest could hardly be more perfectly timed, and you can expect to see me there, sipping a local beer and browsing the art on hand. South Main Arts District. October 26th-28th.
Art on Tap One of Memphis' oldest beer festivals, the Dixon Gallery and Garden's Art on Tap celebrates 23 years this September. Beer lovers and art aficionados gather on the gorgeous grounds of the art museum to sample beer from around the globe. Date to be announced.
Tequila Festival The only festival with an unofficial theme song by the Champs. Sing along, you know all the words: "Tequila!" Made from the blue agave plant, which grows primarily in the highlands of the Mexican state Jalisco, tequila is the fiery drink of outlaws and troublemakers, and this festival is all about celebrating it. Overton Square. Friday, October 12th, 6-9 p.m.
Indie Memphis Film Festival Last year, Indie Memphis celebrated its 20th year — and brought The Office's Rainn Wilson to town, along with dozens of independent shorts and documentaries (such as Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me and The Invaders). Every year the festival brings films to Memphis that Bluff City film buffs would have no other opportunity to see on the big screen. Multiple locations. November 1st-5th.
The Memphis Flyer's Crafts and Drafts Art and beer; beer and art. Two great tastes that taste great together. Join the Flyer for our fourth annual Crafts and Drafts at Crosstown, where attendees can browse art selections and sample delicious local brews. November 10th, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.