Through the years, Memphis in May has played host to international Ambassadors, exhibits and performance troupes from 38 countries, including Japan (1977 & 1986), Canada (1978 & 2016), Germany (1979), Venezuela (1980), Egypt (1981), The Netherlands (1982 & 2001), Israel (1983), Mexico (1984), Australia (1985), China (1987), The United Kingdom (1988), Kenya (1989), France (1990), New Zealand (1991), Italy (1992), Russia (1993), Cote d’Ivoire (1994), Thailand (1995), Brazil (1997), Portugal (1998), Morocco (1999), India (2000), Argentina (2002), South Korea (2003), South Africa (2004), Ireland (2005), Costa Rica (2006), Spain (2007), Turkey (2008), Chile (2009), Tunisia (2010), Belgium (2011), The Philippines (2012), Sweden (2013), Panama (2014), Poland (2015), Colombia (2017), Czech Republic (2018), and Ghana (2022). In 2019, the tradition was broken to celebrate Memphis and mark the city’s bicentennial.
Programming for each year’s salute varies depending on all the country has to offer, but has included extensive Education Programs, historical and cultural exhibits, performances and commercial programs. The International Salute has included many firsts throughout the years: the first time France’s famous Lido dancers performed outside their country during the French salute in 1990, a visit by the Maori queen during 1991’s salute to New Zealand, North America’s largest military tattoo at the Pyramid during 1993’s salute to Russia, and the planting of 120,000 tulip bulbs during the second celebration of the Netherlands in 2001.
CHOOSING THE HONORED COUNTRY
If you’re curious how Memphis in May decides on which country to honor every year, you’re not alone. Our countries are selected by a small committee of between 8-12 business leaders, educators, sometimes gallery owners or museum curators, and members of our board.
The different criteria we consider are:
- Historical significance
- Cultural depth and importance
- Ethnic links to Memphis and the Mid-South
- Potential for active support from the honored country
- Potential for strengthening existing or developing new trade opportunities with local businesses and the country
- Positive diplomatic relations with the US
- A receptive audience at the embassy to our possible salute
BRINGING THE WORLD TO MEMPHIS… & MEMPHIS TO THE WORLD
Memphis in May hosts the city’s largest events like the Beale Street Music Festival and the World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest. Memphis in May also produces extensive education, international, and economic programs for the city.
Memphis in May International Festival is more than its events. It’s also a 501-C(3) not-for-profit, community-based organization that contributes to the economic growth of the community, fosters civic pride, promotes awareness of Memphis heritage and builds international relationships.