Beale Street Music Festival Survival Guide

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••• Lance Wiedower

Mud Fest – that’s the name that forever will be associated with the Memphis in May Beale Street Music Festival, held the first weekend of May every year. I’m not sure the origination of the term, but I’d like to think it came in 1995, which happened to be my first of many Beale Street Music Festivals. That first Saturday in May became an afternoon filled with torrential rain. By the time the sun set, the rain was gone but a cool breeze off the Mississippi River had set in.

More importantly, the grassy park had become a muddy soup.

That year wasn’t a one-off for Music Fest becoming Mud Fest. It’s almost an annual occurrence that the first weekend of May includes rain, and even a severe thunderstorm or two.

I’ve experienced downpours, tornado warnings and sudden thunderstorms. But I’ve also experienced warm and sunny days, beautiful sunsets and evenings with perfect weather. I’ve never let the elements, long lines at portable toilets or the crowds ruin my Beale Street Music Festival fun. Beale Street Music Festival is the official kick off to the month-long Memphis in May International Festival celebration.

Here is a Beale Street Music Festival survival guide:

Wear Rain Boots or Old Shoes: That muddy festival in 1995 led to the additions of mats on the ground in front of the stages. And while it’s a big help, the rest of the festival grounds can get messy when it rains.

So wear rain boots or old shoes, but make sure your feet won’t slip out of those shoes when you step in one of the deep mud puddles. And definitely don’t wear flip flops or sandals.

Dress Cute But Practical: Sure, wear that cute sundress, but don’t wear the expensive one. Good clothes are sure to get ruined at Mud Fest.

Bring a Rain Jacket: The 2013 festival actually brought cold temps and rain, so check the forecast before heading out to Tom Lee Park. Make sure your rain jacket actually is waterproof. Don’t wear one of those nylon track jackets that lets water soak through.

Have Sunscreen: Yes, it’s probably going to rain at Beale Street Music Festival. But chances are Saturday or Sunday afternoon will be beautiful. And that means the warm May sun can burn.

Carry Cash: The festival grounds have ATMs, but I find it easier to come prepared. It will be easier at the food trucks and beer vendors. And if you decide to park in one of the surface parking lots near the grounds, cash might be the only way to pay.

Bring Toilet Paper: You just never know what the toilet paper situation will be in a portable toilet. And if it’s a rainy evening, well, that roll of paper might get a little yucky.

Bring Hand Sanitizer: Portable toilets and the potential for muddy evenings makes the yuck factor higher. Hand sanitizer and baby wipes will prove to be a life saver.

Have Clean Clothes and Towels in Car: If you get soaked or muddy, it will be important to have something dry to put on for the drive home. And a towel to wipe off the Tom Lee Park filth might be good, too.