Best BBQ Festival: Best in the West Nugget Rib Cook-off

World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest is runner up

Summer is BBQ season, and 10Best set out on a mission to find the best barbecue battles, hog fests and smoky celebrations of meat in the nation. We enlisted the help of two BBQ experts to help narrow down the field to the top 20 events and then turned it over to our readers to vote their favorites to the top.

  • The Barbecue Festival
    Lexington, N.C.

    Lexington, North Carolina calls itself the Barbecue Capital of the World, and their contribution to the competitive 'cue calendar is simply called The Barbecue Festival (October 22). The free event lasts a full day and includes chopped BBQ sandwiches, a wine garden, carnival and kids area, 50-ton sand sculpture, juried arts show, antique car show, pig races, bicycle stunt show and lumberjack sports competition.
    Photo courtesy of Donnie Roberts/The Dispatch/Barbecue Festival

  • Big Pig Jig
    Vienna, Ga.

    In 1982 a group of foodies in Vienna, Georgia made a bet on who could cook the most succulent hog, and the Big Pig Jig (November 4-5) was born. While the smokers are hard at work, attendees enjoy live music, kids activities, a craft market and plenty of food.
    Photo courtesy of Big Pig Jig

  • I Love BBQ and Music Festival
    Lake Placid, N.Y.

    Some 300 teams from around the U.S., Canada and Europe descend upon Lake Placid to compete in the I Love BBQ and Music Festival (July 2-4). Nearly 200 live bands entertain the crowds during the event, which also features an antique car and motorcycle parade, stunt team shows and kids activities.
    Photo courtesy of I Love BBQ and Music Festival

  • Papa Joe's Banjo-B-Que Music Festival
    Evans, Ga.

    Each Memorial Day Weekend, Papa Joe's Banjo-B-Que Music Festival (27-28) brings lip smacking 'cue, a stellar music lineup, pig races, a petting zoo, kids activities and local libations to the town of Evans, Georgia. Willie Nelson and Family, along with Old Crow Medicine Show, headline the 2016 event.
    Photo courtesy of Papa Joe's Banjo-B-Que Music Festival

  • Colorado BBQ Challenge
    Frisco, Colo.

    More than 70 barbecue competitors and seven bands will feature at the Colorado BBQ Challenge (June 16-18) during its 23rd installment in 2016. Other events include the Bacon Burner 6k, whiskey tours at Breckenridge Distillery, live music, demos, pig races and kids activities.
    Photo courtesy of Todd Powell

  • Jack Daniel's World Championship Invitational
    Lynchburg, Tenn.

    The Jack Daniel's World Championship Invitational (October 22) pits barbecue teams against each other in categories like chicken, pork ribs, beef brisket and dessert for the coveted title of Grand Champion. Invitational and amateur cooks compete, while attendees can join distillery tours, cooking demos and a pie auction. There will also be live music, a petting zoo and old-fashioned games for the kids.
    Photo courtesy of Jack Daniel's World Championship Invitational Barbecue

  • Tupelo BBQ Duel
    Tupelo, Miss.

    The Tupelo BBQ Duel (March 17-20, 2017) brings 100 teams from around the country to compete in four 'cue categories: chicken, pork ribs, pork and beef brisket. Attendees are treated to free live music, kids activities, a children's parade and a chance to play the judge in the People's Choice tent.
    Photo courtesy of Tupelo BBQ Duel

  • International Bar-B-Q Festival
    Owensboro, Ky.

    Created in 1979 to celebrate Daviess County-style barbecue, the International Bar-B-Q Festival (May 13-14) gives visiting BBQ enthusiasts the chance to sample regional specialties, like Burgoo and BBQ sandwiches, to the sounds of live music. The festivities also include children's entertainment, craft fairs, fitness competitions and a keg toss.
    Photo courtesy of Owensboro Daviess County Convention & Visitors Bureau

  • World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest
    Memphis

    Part of the month-long Memphis in May International Festival, the World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest (May 12-14) features teams from around the world competing in rib, shoulder, whole hog and patio porker categories. Tutu- and snout-wearing men can also compete in the annual Ms. Piggie Idol singing competition.
    Photo courtesy of Mike Kerr

  • Best in the West Nugget Rib Cook-off
    Sparks, Nev.

    Among the biggest free-entry barbecue festivals in the nation, the Best in the West Nugget Rib Cook-off (August 31-September 5) features two dozen of the best barbecue competitors and 240,000 pounds of ribs. The event will also include a craft market, kids area, beer garden and several stages where some 40 bands will play live.
    Photo courtesy of Best in the West Nugget Rib Cook-off

The top 10 winners in the category Best BBQ Festival are as follows:

  1. Best in the West Nugget Rib Cook-off - Sparks, Nev.
  2. World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest - Memphis
  3. International Bar-B-Q Festival - Owensboro, Ky.
  4. Tupelo BBQ Duel - Tupelo, Miss.
  5. Jack Daniel's World Championship Invitational - Lynchburg, Tenn.
  6. Colorado BBQ Challenge - Frisco, Colo.
  7. Papa Joe's Banjo-B-Que Music Festival - Evans, Ga.
  8. I Love BBQ and Music Festival - Lake Placid, N.Y.
  9. Big Pig Jig - Vienna, Ga.
  10. The Barbecue Festival - Lexington, N.C.

A panel of experts picked the initial 20 nominees, and the top 10 winners were determined by popular vote. Experts Ardie A. Davis (America’s Best BBQ, Revised) and competitive pit master Rod Gray were chosen based on their experience in the barbecue festival circuit. 

Other nominated festivals included American Royal World Series of Barbecue, Big Apple Barbecue Block Party, Blue Ridge BBQ & Music Festival, Giant National Capital Barbecue Battle, Great Lenexa BBQ Battle, Lakeland Pigfest, Kickin' It Country Whole Hog Cook-Off, New Jersey State Barbecue Championship, South Carolina Festival of Discovery and World's Championship Bar-B-Que.

Congratulations to all our winning festivals!

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Ardie A. Davis

Ardie A. Davis

Rod Gray

Rod Gray