If you are a barbecue enthusiast, there’s nothing quite like the atmosphere and excitement you’ll find at some of the largest BBQ competitions and festivals that happen throughout the country. One certain thing, the fanfare and extent of BBQ at the upcoming BBQ competitions in 2021 will probably be at a whole new level.
Due to the pandemic, many of 2020’s competitions and events that BBQ teams and fans spend months looking forward to unfortunately had to be canceled. If they weren’t canceled, some went to new virtual formats. So, it is no surprise that the anticipation of the 2021 competition season and BBQ festival lineup is reaching a fever pitch.
From the Southeast or the Northwest, there are some great events near you to try your hand at competition outdoor cooking or enjoy as a spectator. Combining more great-tasting barbecue than you can eat in one sitting (and often great whiskey and beer), with competitions, live music, and other outdoor activities, each of the events below will make any BBQ fan happy. Visitors even have the opportunity to rub shoulders with some of the top pitmasters and grillmasters in the country.
In this article, we’ll fill you in on some of the biggest and best upcoming BBQ competitions and festivals in 2021 that you won’t want to miss (listed in date order):
Location: Houston, TX
February 25th-27th, 2021
One yearly event that is definitely a must-visit for any true barbecue aficionado is the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo World's Championship Bar-B-Que Contest. This 3-day world-class caliber competition, which kicked off in 1974, draws over 250 of the top pitmaster teams from around the country. Even though most of the BBQ team tents are invitation-only, spectators can enjoy the great public venues that include the Rockin' Bar-B-Que Saloon, The Garden, and the Chuck Wagon.
In the Chuck Wagon, festival-goers can grab their complimentary sliced brisket plate with beans and chips. So you do still have the opportunity to taste the same great competition BBQ that the judges are trying. The family-friendly event also features a carnival with fun games and wild rides. You can also enjoy some of the best and up-and-coming artists in Texas country music at The Garden Stage sponsored by Miller Lite. Enjoy more live music and DJs inside or on the outside patio of The Rockin' Bar-B-Que Saloon.
Mark Lambert and Joey Smith, two of the Pitmasters featured in BBQ Champs Academy’s cooking school, were Grand Champion winners in 2019 at the Houston event and Reserve Grand Champions at the 2020 event.
Location: Memphis, TN
May 12th-15th, 2021
One thing Memphis, TN is known for is great barbecue. This is put on display in a big way during the Memphis In May World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest. Set on the bank of the Mississippi River, this BBQ competition is just one part of the Memphis In May International Festival, which is a series of events throughout May and also includes the Beale Street Music Festival.
Dubbed “America's most prestigious barbecue cooking competition”, Memphis In May’s brings in the best of the best pitmasters and teams from across the country. You can watch all of these teams fight for the highest title in barbecue, the World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest World Champion.
One of those top pitmasters you’ll usually find at the event is Mark Lambert and his Sweet Swine O’ Mine Competition BBQ team. Mark is a 4-time Memphis In May World Champion.
Because it is a competition, most of the barbecue being cooked at the event is strictly for the judges to try. But, there are options of specialty tickets available for the public to have the opportunity to try some of the championship-quality barbecue and get to interact with the teams up close.
Location: Washington, DC
June 2021 (Specific dates still to be announced)
Source: WTOP News
After going virtual for the event in 2020, the Giant® National Capital Barbecue Battle is ready to descend again on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, DC in 2021 for its 29th year. What better location to gather our country’s top BBQ pitmasters, and grillmasters, than in our nation’s capital? Sanctioned by the Kansas City Barbecue Society (KCBS), this event is one of the year’s biggest BBQ cooking competitions and food & music festival. Each year this event also raises millions of dollars for local charities.
At this family-friendly event, which attracts tens of thousands of people from all across the country, you have the opportunity to watch some of the top World Champion Pitmasters battle it out to become Grand Champion. The Barbecue Battle includes multiple categories of competition including the Giant National BBQ Championship, Perdue Sizzlin’ Chicken Contest, Smokin’ with Smithfield Rib Contest, Turkey Smoke BBQ Cooking Contest, and more. Along with some of the best BBQ you can eat, enjoy music from fan-favorite artists like Dirty Heads and Elle King (the virtual headliners of the 2020 event).
**The website for the annual event currently has the recap content from the 2020 virtual event. Keep an eye on the event’s Facebook page for the latest updates.
Location: Chicago, IL
July 9th-11th, 2021
Source: Windy City Smokeout
Chicago has long been known for great BBQ with a style all its own. So there is no surprise that the city is ready to throw down again with a huge BBQ competition and country music festival in the summer of 2021. Get ready for all the BBQ, beer, and live country music performances you could possibly handle at The Windy City Smokeout.
This combination of competition and festival is one of the largest barbecue events in the U.S., drawing more than 25,000 people in 2019 on its first day alone. The 2021 event will feature 20 of the world’s top pitmasters all vying for Champion and more than 15 musical acts, including headliners Darius Rucker, Dierks Bentley, and Jon Pardi.
There are both General Admission and VIP tickets available, with part of the proceeds going to the FEED Chicago organization.
Location: Kansas City, KS
Tentatively scheduled for September 16th-19th, 2021
Source: American Royal
If you are a fan of BBQ, there is no doubt that the immersive American Royal World Series of Barbecue, held at Kansas Speedway, should be near the top of your bucket list. Dubbed “Kansas City’s biggest party”, the 4-day event, going on its 41st year, is another of the longest-running BBQ festivals in the country. Drawing over 50,000 spectators and 500 BBQ teams from all over the world (even Australia), it is also the world’s largest barbecue competition. Competitors battle it out for the chance to be crowned Grand Champion in the Open Competition, Invitational Competition, Sides Competition, and Kids Que.
This competition and festival offer something for everyone with delicious food, rodeo and equine events, vendors from all over the country, incredible live music, and kid’s events and activities.
Location: Lexington, NC
October 23rd, 2021
Source: The Barbecue Festival
If you are looking for a great event in NC filled with some great tasting barbecue, make sure to check out The Barbecue Festival. Going on its 38th year, this one-day event held in Lexington, NC, is sure to offer great barbecue and plenty of festivities. The festival revolves around and only serves one type of popular barbecue: “Lexington style”. Lexington-style features a tangy, vinegar-based sauce that is reddened and slightly sweetened using ketchup.
The Barbecue Festival, showcasing some of the best-tasting BBQ around, will also feature live music on seven entertainment stages, over 200 food and arts & crafts vendors, an antique car show, racing pigs, and even pigtail fries.
These are just a few of the best festivals and BBQ competitions in 2021 that are happening across America. Check out these events for a guaranteed great time, try some world-class BBQ, and even possibly have the opportunity to learn some great tips and tricks from some of the world’s best BBQ pitmasters and grillmasters.
Have you competed in or attended any of these great competitions or festivals in years past? Are there some other big events that we didn’t include? Drop your comment below. We want to hear from you!
Don’t worry, you don’t have to wait until one of these events next year to learn some insider techniques and secrets straight from the barbecue pros. Everything from how to make sure you have everything you will need ready beforehand to how to select the best beef for barbecue.
Here at BBQ Champs Academy, you can learn everything you need to know, up close and personal, from champion BBQ pitmasters and grillmasters in our virtual bbq cooking school. Check out our all-access pass for the full inside scoop or try out classes individually.
Make sure to check out our YouTube channel for all the latest videos full of tips, insider info, and BBQ news. Click “Subscribe” on our channel so you don't miss the latest from BBQ Champs Academy!
The Fourth Of July, the favorite summer holiday, is one of the days that you just have to spend outside and celebrate this spirited day. It’s a perfect opportunity to spend some time together with your family and friends, have some fun, and relax. From party games to trying out new barbecue grilling recipes, there are lots of fun activities and at-home ideas to keep everyone entertained this Independence Day. We’ve put together a list of just some of the Fourth of July activities you can do with your family and friends to celebrate the holiday.
Oftentimes, one of the best aspects of the Fourth of July is decorating. Making DIY red, white, and blue decorations is a fun way to get the whole family involved and get those creative juices flowing. Everyone can make their own statement pieces and work together to decorate the entire home inside and out. There are a lot of easy, cost-effective decorations you can make or put together to get in the Independence Day spirit. Check out this great list from Red Tricycle to give you some ideas to start with.
What’s more fun than going to a movie with the family? Setting up a fun, comfortable movie night out in your own backyard. This is a great Fourth of July activity for the movie buffs in your family and creates an opportunity to still spend time outside with the family. Set up a screening of a great All-American movie - complete with cozy seating - all in your backyard. You can even include a spread of your favorite movie snacks and drinks in close reach. Here’s a list of All-American movies to help you decide on a feature.
If you and your family are regular outdoor wanderers who enjoy camping but can’t make it to a real campsite this year, try backyard camping for the Fourth of July. You can even complete the scene with a firepit campfire and s’mores. Set up a tent and everything just like you would at a campsite, enjoy dinner outside, and spend some time under the stars around a fire. Check out this list from Family Handyman for all of the backyard camping essentials you’ll need.
Many people will argue that the Fourth of July is not complete without a barbecue. Cooking outside on a grill or smoker always makes for a good, family-friendly activity and a way to bring friends and neighbors together. You can cook a whole feast, sides and all, on the grill. But this year, kick your barbecue skills up a notch and learn insider tips and secrets straight from the pros.
The step-by-step online barbecue cooking classes from us here at BBQ Champs Academy provide an inside look at exactly how the pros cook competition-worthy barbecue so you can learn too! You can even get the whole family involved and cook together while learning something new. You can check out the easy-to-follow recipes included in the backyard barbecue cooking classes. Or take it up a notch and tackle smoking brisket or master how to perfectly grill steak like the Champion Pitmasters and Grillmasters.
Also, if you are wanting to barbecue food that will impress your family and friends make sure you’ve got quality fuel like the pros use. Champion Pitmasters and Grillmasters like Joey Smith, Mark Lambert, and Shawna Roppolo all rely on the high-quality products from B & B Charcoal. Including charcoal, wood pellets, wood chunks, and more.
If you are heading to a Fourth of July barbecue at a family member or friend’s house (particularly one who loves outdoor cooking), check out the great gift baskets B & B Charcoal has available right now!
If you plan on having a barbecue on the Fourth of July, that doesn’t have to be the only meal outside. You can start the day off with a fun brunch picnic. Whether you are organizing a picnic with friends or with family, make sure to include some of everyone’s favorite picnic food items and drinks. Don’t forget the champagne for the adults! (Or even boozy popsicles) Spend some time outside in the sun and enjoy a fun meal while you’re at it. Check out this recipe roundup and list of picnic essentials from All Recipes.
If you are looking for a fun activity to do with the kids (or to keep them entertained), try 4th of July Bingo. You can easily make your own patriotic Bingo cards using cardstock paper and stickers to mark the boxes. With this game, the kids can have a great time inside and outside of the house throughout the day while hunting down each item on their card. You can even give away small prizes or treats to the winners for added fun. Check out this free 4th Of July printable game from Studio DIY.
With the huge variety of different games you can play, getting everyone together to play lawn games is a great example of one of the Fourth of July activities you can do. Whether you have a group of adults getting together or younger kids playing also, there is something for everyone. Some examples include cornhole, football toss (through hula hoops hanging from tree limbs), capture the American flag, or even volleyball. Have some competitive fun and get everyone involved in playing outside. Check out this great DIY tutorial from Oola on how to make your own set of cornhole boards for the Fourth of July.
After spending a lot of time inside lately, take a drive and spend some time outside at a local State or National park. Chances are you won’t have to drive far to spend some quality time outside with family and friends in nature. These protected areas often provide breathtaking scenic views and provide an opportunity to take in the peaceful surroundings. You can use this directory to find your closest state park, and check out this roundup of 11 great national parks to visit.
Before visiting a park, make sure to check the park website to determine its current operating status based on phased reopenings due to COVID-19.
These are just a few examples of some fun outdoor Fourth of July activities you can do with your family and friends this Independence Day, all without having to go far. You can put together a day filled with fun, great food, and great company creating memories you won’t forget. Get creative and spend your Fourth of July outside doing things that everyone will love to participate in together.
One thing that’s for sure is that this Father’s Day will be very different than those of years past. Over the last couple of months, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve had more opportunity to spend time with our families, spend time outside, and do creative and fun activities.
Whether you are the father being celebrated or you are celebrating a special Dad in your family, the day will be about more than the gifts that may be given. Spending time with family is just as important, if not more.
So, to help spark your creativity, we’ve put together a list of some great Father’s Day activities you can do with your loved ones to enjoy the day. (And yes, some of these make great last-minute gift ideas as well!)
Just because you may still be limited on how far you can travel during these times lately, you can still tour places you’ve always dreamed of visiting from the comfort of your home. Dozens of parks, attractions, and famous city streets can be explored through virtual tours in a stunning online experience. Check out this list from Town & Country Magazine for some great virtual adventures you can take. From diving in the Atlantic off the Florida Keys to touring the Catacombs of Paris and everything in between. Some of the greatest art museums in the world are also offering virtual tours. This list from Travel & Leisure will give you some great museums to start with. Take the family exploring all over the world without even leaving your home this Father’s Day.
You don’t need to go far to have some creative, clue-searching fun. You can easily put together a fun scavenger hunt for inside or outside the house. The whole family can take part as you all help each other find the next item. Whether it is looking for teddy bears in the windows of your neighbors, or working together as a team to figure out the riddle that leads to the next item. This list from Parade provides some great scavenger hunts available online that are fun for the whole family. Plus, if you are the one putting the scavenger hunt together for the special Dad, you can have it lead up to his Father’s Day gift at the end.
What is better than your favorite type of beer? Your favorite type of beer that you brewed yourself at home! At-home brewing is easier than you may think and is a fun activity that the family can do together. To get younger kids involved it can easily be turned into a fun science project. There are now a ton of at-home brewing kits, like the ones from Craft A Brew, and you’ll have everything you need to start making your own craft beer.
It’s a given, many Dad’s love to get their hands dirty and build things. Why not make it a family activity and work together to build something for and with the kids. Involve the kids every step of the way. From getting your materials and tools together to the actual build and even picking colors (if it’s something you are going to paint). You can build a workbench, a sandbox, or even a treehouse. Check out this great list from Fatherly.com for treehouse plans you can use.
Yes, the step-by-step online barbecue cooking classes from us here at BBQ Champs Academy make a great activity for the whole family to do together. If the Dad in your family loves to barbecue, a class taught by champion Pitmasters and Grillmasters is a way to help him step his BBQ game up. All while providing an opportunity for the rest of the family to take part and spend some quality time together learning something new. You can check out the easy-to-follow recipes included in the backyard barbecue cooking classes. For the dad’s who really want to up their BBQ skills, you can dive in and tackle a smoked brisket or ribs like the professional pitmasters in the tell-all Pitmaster classes, or master a perfectly grilled steak in the champion Grillmaster classes.
We’ve made it easy to give our classes as a gift on our gift card page!
After a fun-filled (or relaxing) day, you can settle in and make Father’s Day a movie night and play screen some favorites. Or, if you (or the special Dad being celebrated) are a movie buff, this can be the main event of the day. A selection of movies from a favorite director or a favorite series of movies can be screened. There are also some great Father’s Day-themed movies, like the ones outlined in this list from Woman's Day, from all different genres that you can stream.
These are just a few ideas of fun, creative Father's Day activities and ways to have fun with the whole family. All without having to leave the house for long. There may be a shift in the way Father’s Day is celebrated this year, but you can still create a day full of memories with your family and enjoy the time together.
If you are still looking for some gift ideas, check out this great Father’s Day gift list.
UPDATE: Since this article was originally written, we have encountered the COVID-19 pandemic. Please make sure to follow the links to each competition's website to check for any changes in format or dates due to the pandemic.
Whether you are in the Southeast or Pacific Northwest and anywhere in between, BBQ is a favorite staple. Outdoor cooking and entertaining has become American traditions all across the country. Combine great tasting barbecue (and often great whiskey and beer) with live music, competition, and other outdoor activities, and it’s a great time you don’t want to miss. At these BBQ festivals and competitions, you’ll also often have the opportunity to see some of the top BBQ pitmasters and grillmasters in action up close and personal. Maybe even try your hand at some competition cooking.
Thousands of people flock to these events all over the country throughout the year. Each part of the country offers BBQ events that vary a little in features and types of BBQ. But one thing is true. Every single one will offer the opportunity to try more types and forms of great BBQ than you could probably comfortably eat.
Let’s take a look at some of the best BBQ festivals & competitions you’ll want to check out in 2020. In date order:
February 27-29, 2020
Source: Houston Press
Any true BBQ aficionado knows one yearly event that is definitely a must-visit, the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo World's Championship Bar-B-Que Contest. Started in 1974, this 3-day world-class caliber competition brings in over 250 pitmaster teams. Most of the BBQ team tents are invitation-only, but festival-goers can enjoy several public venues, like The Garden, Rockin' Bar-B-Que Saloon, and the Chuck Wagon.
In the Chuck Wagon, visitors can pick up their complimentary sliced brisket plate with chips and beans so you can still taste some great competition BBQ. Plus, the festival features a carnival with wild rides and fun games. Also, the Miller Lite Garden Stage features some of the best and up-and-coming artists in Texas country. Enjoy more live and DJ music in The Rockin' Bar-B-Que Saloon which has an outside patio as well.
June 27-28th, 2020
Source: Washington Times
What better place to bring together all of the country’s top BBQ pitmasters, grillmasters, and outdoor cooking experts than right on Pennsylvania Avenue in our nation’s capital? The Giant® National Capital Barbecue Battle is one of the year’s biggest BBQ cooking competitions and food & music festival, sanctioned by the Kansas City Barbecue Society (KCBS). For the past 27 years, this event has also raised millions of dollars for area charities.
This family-friendly event draws tens of thousands of people and allows the opportunity to watch some of the best World Champion Pitmasters go head-to-head to become Grand Champion. The Battle includes multiple competition categories, like the “Perdue Sizzlin’ Chicken Contest”, “True Aussie Lamb Contest”, and the “National Pork Barbecue Championship”. Enjoy live music from greats like The Spindoctors (a 2019 headliner for the event) and some of the best BBQ you can taste.
Held in the beautiful Adirondacks at the popular summer getaway, Lake Placid, NY, the I Love BBQ & Music Festival is just that. A combination of great outdoor cooking and great music. You can also enjoy a large motorcycle parade to celebrate the Independence Day holiday.
This three-day festival offers great live entertainment as well as a large BBQ cooking competition also sanctioned by the KCBS. The competition includes traditional categories like Best New Strip Steak or Best Chicken, but also unique categories like Fatty or Desert. Watch some great BBQ pitmasters in action, or take part in the competition yourself, and enjoy the delicious food and fun that the festival has on offer.
If you love BBQ, there is no doubt that the immersive American Royal World Series of Barbecue, Kansas City’s biggest party, should be on your bucket list. The 4-day event is held at the Kansas Speedway and, as another of the longest-running BBQ festivals, is going on its 41st year. This is also the world’s largest barbecue competition, drawing over 500 BBQ teams from all over the world and over 50,000 spectators. Competitors vie for the opportunity to be crowned Grand Champion in the Invitational Competition, Open Competition, Sides Competition, and Kids Que.
This festival and competition offer something for everyone with incredible live music, rodeo and equine events, vendors from all over the country, kid’s events and activities, and of course delicious food.
October 24th, 2020
Source: The Barbecue Festival
Going on its 37th year, The Barbecue Festival, a one-day event held in Lexington, NC, is sure to offer great BBQ and a great event. This event centers around one type of popular BBQ: “Lexington style”. A tangy, vinegar-based sauce, slightly sweetened and reddened with ketchup.
Showcasing some of the best BBQ in the world, The Barbecue Festival, features over 200 food and arts & crafts vendors, seven entertainment stages, live music and entertainment, an antique car show, racing pigs, and even pigtail fries.
These are just a few of the best festivals and BBQ competitions happening throughout the year across America. Check out these events for a guaranteed great time, try some world-class BBQ, and even possibly have the opportunity to learn some great tips and tricks from some of the world’s best BBQ pitmasters and grillmasters.
Have you been to any of these great competitions or festivals? Or some other great ones that we didn’t include? Leave a comment below. We want to hear from you!
Don’t worry, you don’t have to wait until one of these competitions or festivals to learn some great pitmaster techniques from some of these barbecue experts. Here at BBQ Champs Academy, these are the types of things you’ll learn up close and personal from top award-winning BBQ pitmasters and grillmasters in our online bbq cooking school. Everything from how to make sure you have everything you will need ready beforehand to how to select the best beef for barbecue. Check out our all-access passes and individual classes for more information on our online BBQ classes.