The Complete 2011 Memphis in May Survival Guide
The Complete 2011 Memphis in May Survival Guide
Memphis in May might be a few weeks away, but it's never too early to be prepared. Here's everything you need to know before heading to any of the festival events:
What to Bring
If you're going to Beale St. Music Fest or the World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest, you're probably going to spend a considerable amount of time in Tom Lee Park. Here's what to pack in your no-larger-than-12" by 12" bag:
- Ziploc bags. They're perfect for keeping your phone and cash from getting soaked.
- Sunscreen. Just because the sun isn't shining, it doesn't mean you won't get burned.
- Cash. The food and drink vendors only accept cash.
- Trash bags. They're perfect for stashing wet clothes and shoes in, and if you don't have to do that, you can always help clean up.
- Bug spray
- A poncho. Even if you're wearing clothes you don't care about, it never hurts to have some extra rain gear. Pick up one of the tightly packed disposable ones from Walgreens or Target.
- Walkie-talkies or a cheap battery-operated radio. Cell phone service can be spotty during the festival. If your group is splitting up, it can be a lot easier to communicate by walkie-talkie. Similarly, if the weather gets bad and the park has to be evacuated, a battery operated radio will help you find out exactly what's going on.
- Gold Bond. Heat rash is real. Carrying a small bottle of Gold Bond powder doesn't make you elderly - it makes you less itchy.
- An old cell phone. Swap the SIM card out of your regular phone into an old phone that you don't care about anymore. Better to have your 5 year-old Nokia get damaged than your brand new iPhone.
How to Dress
Memphis in May is not a fashion show. You're not there to look cute. You're there to hear music and eat barbecue, most likely in torrential rain. Here's some advice for staying comfortable:
- Wear real shoes. Seriously. WEAR REAL SHOES. Flip-flops are not real shoes. Every year, the park is littered with hundreds of sad, broken flip-flops. If you doubt your shoes' ability to survive a mile-long walk in the mud, don't wear them. It's best to wear your crappiest pair of tennis shoes or boots. Also, ladies, there is a time and a place for heels. MIM isn't that time or place.
- Buy rain boots now. Even if you think you won't need them, go ahead and buy a pair of rubber rain boots. You won't be able to find any for at least 20 miles on Music Fest weekend.
- Light layers are always a good idea. Stash a hoodie and an extra t-shirt in your bag in case you it gets a little chilly at night. You want to have options.
- Wear a skirt. They'll keep you cooler, and they're less likely to get muddy on the bottom (or splattered in the port-o-potties). Plus, a light cotton skirt will dry out faster than jeans will.
- Wear contacts or old glasses. You really don't want to lose your nice prescription specs at BSMF or Barbecue Fest. Contacts are best - they stay in, you can wear sunglasses with them, and they don't get impossible to see out of when it rains.
- Rain gear is a must. You're going to need a poncho. If you've got waders, you may want to consider wearing them. You won't look any sillier than anyone else, but you will look drier.
General Tips for Making the Most of MIM
- It's going to rain. It always rains. Always. It will rain during BSMF. It will rain at barbecue fest. It's best if you go ahead and get to a zen-like place of acceptance about the rain.
- Drink water, lots and lots of water. It's going to be hot, you're going to be walking around, and you're probably going to be drinking beer. The trick to making it through the weekend without getting sick is to drink way more water than anything else - think two glasses of water for every beer.
- At BSMF, have a plan of attack. There are bands playing all day on three stages (and in one tent). Know when the bands you want to see are going to play and add extra walk time into your schedule.
- Keep a change of clothes in your car. Nothing will feel better at the end of the day than fresh socks.
- Book a hotel room or try to stay with friends that live downtown. It'll give you a place to park, somewhere to go to recharge, and it'll be a lot easier than dealing with traffic.
- Make Barbecue Fest friends now. Because Barbecue Fest is a competition, teams aren't allowed to serve food to the general public. This means that if you don't know someone in one of the tents, you're going to miss out. The only way the masses can sample barbecue from the cooking teams is to pay $4 to be a "public judge". Your $4 will get you five samples, and you can come back as often as you'd like.
- If you get invited into a Barbecue Fest tent, be sure to tip. It's ridiculously expensive for teams to compete at the festival (think thousands of dollars). The least you could do is throw in for your beer.
- You are allowed to bring coolers and food to the Sunset Symphony. You're also allowed to bring a blanket or lawn chairs.
- If you need a break, it's perfectly fine to leave the festival. Walk up the bluff and grab some food from one of the restaurants downtown. Know the re-entry procedures for BSMF and barbecue fest. At BSMF, you're allowed to leave and re-enter once per day. You have to be back in the park two hours before the gates close.
- Don't forget about International Week. This year, Memphis in May is celebrating Belgium with a ton of events around town during the first week in May.
- Embrace the craziness. You can't do anything about it. Don't think about how crowded it is - think about the excellent people watching opportunities. If there's a tornado warning, leave in a calm and orderly fashion (and know that the MIM staff knows what they're doing, as they get to practice almost every year.) Take some time to walk around and see the completely decked-out Barbecue Fest booths. Watch the annual Miss Piggy Idol contest (involving lots of grown men in dresses and pig snouts singing pork-themed covers of pop songs). See the Belgian band at BSMF. You'll have a lot more fun if you can relax and roll with the ridiculousness.
Memphis in May starts on April 29th. For more information about all of the Memphis in May events and tickets, visit the Memphis in May website.