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Top 7 BBQ Festivals and Competitions in the U.S.

Maybe it’s that alluring smoky flavor, those perfectly charred grill lines or the right combination of sweet and tangy sauce, but everyone knows there’s something about southern-style BBQ that hits that feel-good spot. As we pay homage to traditional southern African BBQ (braai) this summer season, we’d be remiss not to highlight the best down-home barbecue festivals that the United States has to offer.

1. Memphis in May World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest (Memphis, TN)

Every year, this barbecue contest brings together participants from all over the world. Over 300 teams compete in challenges, spending thousands of dollars to prove that their BBQ skills are first-class. And the lucky folks in Memphis get to taste away and decide for themselves which BBQ is best!

2. Jack Daniel’s World Championship Invitational Barbecue (Lynchburg, TN)

In terms of worldwide appeal, it doesn’t get much bigger than the Jack Daniel’s World Championship Invitational. We’re talking over 25,000 fans cheering on teams as they go head-to-head in seven different categories including pork ribs, chicken, beef/brisket, and of course, dessert.

3. Sam’s Club National BBQ Tour (Bentonville, AR)

Arguably the biggest BBQ competition in the U.S., the Sam’s Club National Tour includes 750 teams competing across five different regions with over $500,000 in cash and prizes.

4. International Bar-B-Q Festival (Owensboro, KY)

One of the things that makes the International Bar-B-Q Festival more noteworthy than some of the other bbq festivals is that it provides participants with a forum to raise money for charitable causes. Good eats for good causes!

5. North Carolina Barbecue Festival (Lexington, NC)

Those who argue that Lexington is the barbecue capital of the world easily point to the North Carolina Barbecue Festival as evidence. In 2014, over the course of two days, it’s estimated that over 200,000 people attended this festival!

6. Atlanta BBQ Festival (Atlanta, GA)

At the Atlanta BBQ Festival, 50 teams compete for over $15,000 in cash and prizes. Patrons of the Atlanta BBQ festival refer to it as the crossroads of BAR-B-Q where Texas, Carolina, Memphis, St. Louis, and Kentucky styles meet. Yum!

7. American Royal World Series of Barbecue (Kansas City, MO)

One thing that makes the American Royal World Series of Barbecue extra tasty is that it has a standout competition just for barbecue sauce! In addition to its competitive focus, the organization behind the barbecue competition is a non-profit with a focus on children, granting over $1.4 million in scholarships and educational awards to well-deserving youth.

So what do you think? Got a U.S. BBQ competition that you think deserves mention? Let us know on our Twitter or Facebook!


(Photo courtesy Travis Isaacs, Flickr)


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