10 Best BBQ Festivals and Competitions

on May 7, 2012
Shawn McHugh

Colorado State BBQ Championship

Where: Craig, Colo. When: August 3-4 2012 One of the most laid back and small town State Championships, this annual event is held in a town park in historic Craig and is all about having fun. It is paired with a local hot air balloon festival for one of the more unusual combinations of food and activities. Find out more.

Memphis in May World Championships

Where: Memphis, Tenn. When: May 17-19 2012 One of the four “Majors” of the professional barbecue circuits, this annual event features hundreds of the world’s best teams and is held in Tom Lee Park. Attendees can purchase optional V.I.Pit passes for behinds the scenes access, and besides the event, you are near all the famed barbecue joints and music of Memphis itself. Find out more.

Lance Duffin

American Royal World Series of Barbecue®

Where: Kansas City, Kan. When: October 4-7 2012 The grand-daddy of them all, this is the biggest, with over 600 of the world’s best competitive BBQ teams spread over 20-acres in the historic stockyards district. Arguably the most prestigious title in ‘cue, it is known as “The World Series of Barbecue” and spans three meat-packed days. Last year drew 60,000 spectators and included a BBQ Expo marketplace, music, fireworks, demos and much more. Find out more.

Hudson Valley Ribfest

Where: New Paltz, N.Y. When: Aug. 18-19 2012 This popular event is the largest in the New York region, held at the Ulster County Fairgrounds. There are continuous live music and demos on two stages, and in addition to the typical KCBS four meat lineup on Sunday, Saturday’s competition gets creative with pizza, chicken wings, salmon and apple dessert. Find out more.

Atlanta BBQ Festival

Where: Atlanta, Ga. When: Sept. 14-15 2012 It may be only four years old, but last year 15,000 spectators turned up for this urban festival. Atlanta’s top BBQ restaurants all have tents, and there is also a large market village with all sorts of grilling and smoking accessories. Live music plays throughout, and one of the extra categories is a whole hog contest, so there is plenty of pork to go around. Find out more.

Sam’s Club National BBQ Tour

Where: Albuquerque, N.M. When: May 12 2012 Sam’s Club sponsors an annual 25-event circuit across the U.S. towards a National Championship, with five regional brackets. Albuquerque’s event - held at a Sam’s Club of course - crowns the winner of the year’s first regional bracket, five weeks into the season. Find out more.

Safeway National Capital BBQ Battle

Where: Washington, D.C. When: June 23-24 2012 This lively contest is held at the front door of democracy, right on historic Pennsylvania Avenue. The carnival atmosphere includes a sampling pavilion, BBQ restaurant row, cooking demos, bands, a BBQ bazaar marketplace, and exhibits for the pork, poultry and beef industries. Find out more.

New England Championship of Barbecue

Where: Windsor, Vt. When: July 27-28 2012 The largest such competition in New England, this is one of the few where almost every competing team sells its products directly to the public for a great weekend of sampling more BBQ than you can imagine. Held on the grounds of the Harpoon Brewery, with several varieties of craft brewed beer to wash down all that smoked meat. Find out more.

Jack Daniels

Jack Daniels World Championship Invitational Barbecue

Where: Lynchburg, Tn. When: October 27 2012 The smallest of the four Majors, “The Jack” is an ultra-prestigious competition attended by the winner of every State Championship, proven international teams and a handful of additional invitees, all in the hometown of Jack Daniels, with distillery tours available. Of course, extra prize categories include BBQ sauce and dessert - made with Jack Daniels. Find out more.

Iowa State BBQ Championship

Where: Marshalltown, Iowa When: June 22-23 2012 Iowans love their meat, especially pork, and this popular event is now in its 14th year. It does not allow completion sampling, but does have bands, on site BBQ vendors, and an “iron skillet” one pot contest open to the public. Find out more.

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