Forward Momentum, organizers of the festival, say the new name draws on the importance of smoke to the quintessential flavor and aroma of BBQ and the heritage of hard-fought competition between teams

MEMPHIS, Tenn., Jan. 11, 2024 /PRNewswire/ — Forward Momentum, the organizers of the new Memphis barbecue festival, today announced further details and the name of the event: ‘SmokeSlam’ with the tagline: ‘The World’s Ultimate BBQ Showdown’. The three-day event will take place from May 16-18, 2024, at Tom Lee Park and has attracted over 100 interested teams. 

Melzie Wilson, a lifelong supporter of competition barbecue and respected community leader with over 20-plus years in the sport, has joined the SmokeSlam steering committee to help organize the event: “I have invested many years of my life into the barbecue world, and I’m excited to see a multi-sanctioned barbecue competition, combined with an expanded fan experience, come to our city. The name, ‘SmokeSlam,’ perfectly captures the essence of BBQ and the intensity of competition, which is what this event is all about. I have no doubt it will attract Memphians from all walks of life and visitors from all parts of the U.S. to downtown Memphis.”

The event, which carries a purse of $250,000, the largest in pork BBQ competition history, has also partnered with the Memphis BBQ Network (MBN) to run the judging for the competition: “SmokeSlam will be an MBN-sanctioned event where teams can compete in all three major categories, and category winners are also eligible for a ‘Golden Ticket’ to compete in the World Food Championship in the Fall. Judging will be blind and on-site for the preliminaries,” says Wilson.

Categories will include Whole Hog, Ribs, and Pulled Pork, with prizes awarded across five places per category, totaling $150,000 in prize money. Seven categories of Dessert, Bacon, Duck, Poultry, Beef, Seafood, and Wings have been added, with a total prize of $40,000 across five places, sanctioned by the World Food Championship, and each winner in these categories will also get a golden ticket to the World Food Championship. The grand prize in the MBN Pork competition will be $50,000 for the winning team. Small prizes to the value of $10,000 will also be awarded.   

Application registration will be open online next week for all potential competitors, and space will be limited to ensure the quality of competition and the best use of the venue space for a high-quality fan experience. “The steering committee will make the final selection of teams. We want to make sure that we have the best mix of competitors and that we design the space to take advantage of the amazing venue. Team booths will be available in Tom Lee Park on the river, and for those who prefer street access, there will be booths available on Riverside Drive. The cost will range from $2,000 for a basic space to $3,500 for a larger booth, including entrance fees, some electrical access, and ablutions,” says Wilson.

SmokeSlam’s mission will be to produce an inclusive event that enhances the rich tradition of barbecue in Memphis, the unique river setting, and the city’s musical heritage: “Our event is called a festival because we aim to attract barbecue fans, but also families, music lovers and young people from Memphis and beyond,” says Mike Smith from Forward Momentum.

The festival will include a carnival with a Ferris wheel, a carousel, and games; a central marketplace, which will be a partnership with local businesses where fans will be able to buy merchandise and other goods; and an interactive element where fans will be able to sample food and participate in fun food-related events.

“True to our heritage in organizing large fan-based experiences, SmokeSlam will have live music on all three nights, catering to a range of musical tastes, with both local and national talent performing. There will be something for everyone, with the barbecue competition at the core of the event,” says Smith.

Organizers are currently in discussion with several large sponsors, and more news will follow on partnerships with local charitable causes, influencers, and celebrity talent. 

For more information, teams can contact Forward Momentum at [email protected] or at

About Forward Momentum
Forward Momentum is owned by a group of Memphians focused on improving our city and our music and tourism industries. Our mission is to ignite the power of live music and events, creating extraordinary experiences that resonate with fans.

For more information, contact:
Lindsay Stevens 
[email protected]
Mike Smith, Forward Momentum 
[email protected]

SOURCE Forward Momentum

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