For any big BBQ fan, a big-time BBQ festival is a must on the bucket list. All in one place you’ll be able to try all kinds of delicious grilled or smoked food (often paired with great beer and/or whiskey), listen to great live music, experience competition cooking (whether you are just watching or throwing your hat in the ring), interact with some of the top Pitmasters and Grillmasters in the country, and more!
The good thing is, there are plenty of great festivals and BBQ competitions in 2022 to choose from! With more and more events coming back to life after the pandemic, no matter what part of the country you’re in, chances are there’s a BBQ festival happening not too far from you next year.
Plus, there are several big BBQ events that are definitely worth traveling to at least once in your life. You could even check out a couple of different ones during the year and try the different regional styles of BBQ that you’ll find throughout the country.
So, if you’re looking for a list of the best BBQ festivals and competitions in 2022, you’ve come to the right place! In this article, we’ve put together some of the best BBQ events coming up next year (listed in date order):
(*Interested in entering as a competitor? The best place to get info on how to enter is to visit the website for the specific competition you are interested in. There you'll usually find entry requirements, guidelines, timelines, etc.)
Location: Houston, TX
Dates: February 24th - 26th, 2022
One of the long-running BBQ events that should be on the bucket list of any true barbecue aficionado is the World's Championship Bar-B-Que Contest at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.
Taking place in February, this 3-day competition, which started in 1974, is back after having to cancel in 2021 due to the pandemic. Over 250 of the top BBQ pitmaster teams from around the country will be anxious to get back to competing at this major event. Plus, a new Open Contest category has been added for the 2022 event, allowing competitors to prepare anything they want (except for dessert). The other categories in competition are brisket, ribs, chicken, Go Texan, and Dutch Oven Dessert.
Most of the BBQ team tents are invitation-only, but spectators still have plenty of great public venues to check out at this family-friendly event. These include The Garden, the Rockin' Bar-B-Que Saloon, and the Chuck Wagon, as well as the wild rides and games of the carnival.
At the Garden Stage sponsored by Miller Lite, some of the best and up-and-coming artists in Texas country music will be featured. You can enjoy even more live music and popular DJs inside The Rockin' Bar-B-Que Saloon or on its outside patio. At the Chuck Wagon inside the saloon, visitors can grab their complimentary sliced brisket plate with beans and chips. So, you’ll still have a chance to taste the same great BBQ that is being judged in the competition.
Location: Tifton, GA
Dates: March 5th, 2022 (Kickoff party March 4th, 6-10 pm)
Source: Tifton Gazette
Two things they do well in Georgia are southern BBQ and live music. At the Rhythm & Ribs Festival in Tifton, GA, you can get your fill of both in this fun, family-friendly event.
The event includes a BBQ competition for both the amateur backyard cookers and professional pitmasters, with cash prizes and bragging rights up for grabs in each category. The professional division is sanctioned by the Georgia BBQ Association.
You’ll also enjoy tons of live music and dozens of vendors, including food, arts & crafts, hunting & fishing, unique items, kids items, and more!
Make sure to keep an eye on the event website for the full entertainment and vendor lineup as it gets closer to the festival.
Location: Memphis, TN
Dates: May 11th - 14th, 2021
(Mark Lambert at the Memphis in May World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest)
In May, great barbecue takes over Memphis, TN when the best pitmasters and their BBQ teams descend on the city for the 44th Annual World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest (WCBCC), which is part of the Memphis in May International Festival. The BBQ competition, set on the bank of the Mississippi River, is just one part of the multi-event festival that happens throughout May and also includes the Beale Street Music Festival.
Known as “America's most prestigious barbecue cooking competition”, in this event, teams will be competing for over $145,000 in prizes and ultimate bragging rights. They’re also fighting for the title of “World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest World Champion”, the highest title in competition barbecue. The competition is the largest pork barbecue contest in the world and features the championship categories of Whole Hog, Rib, and Shoulder. It also includes the Patio Porkers division which is an amateur division for backyard cookers who want to test their skills before competing with the professional pitmasters.
Mark Lambert (and his Sweet Swine O’ Mine Competition BBQ team) is one of those top pitmasters you’ll usually see competing at the event. Mark is a 4-time World Champion at the event!
It is a competition and not a food festival, so the barbecue being cooked at the event is for the judges, the teams, and their friends, not for the general public. But, there are still some specialty ticket options available for purchase to the public. These tickets give you the chance to interact with the teams up close, try some of the championship-level barbecue, experience cooking demonstrations, and more.
Location: Washington, DC
Dates: June 25th to 26th, 2022
Source: Giant National Capital Barbecue Battle
After going virtual for the event in 2021, the Giant® National Capital Barbecue Battle is back and bigger than ever as an in-person event for its 30th year. This premiere barbecue food and music festival will take place on a several-block stretch of Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, DC. Each year the event also raises millions of dollars for the USO and other local charities.
Sanctioned by the Kansas City Barbecue Society (KCBS), this event brings together the nation’s top World Champion BBQ Pitmasters for an epic battle to become Grand Champion. The Giant National BBQ Championship includes multiple categories of competition including the Perdue Sizzlin’ Chicken Contest, the National Beef Championship, the Smokin’ with Smithfield Pork Rib Contest, and more.
At this family-friendly event, you can also enjoy mouth-watering BBQ beef brisket, chicken, pulled pork, ribs, and all the mouth-watering sides to go with it. The event will also feature three live-music stages with Rock, Blues, Jazz, Reggae, Go-Go, and RB, cooking demonstrations, interactive exhibits, multiple food sampling pavilions, a DC Sports Zone, tons of kid's activities, and more.
**The website for the event is in the process of being updated from the content from the 2021 virtual event to the content for the 2022 in-person event. Keep an eye on the event’s Facebook page for the latest updates.
Location: Chicago, IL
Dates: August 4th - 7th, 2021
Source: Windy City Smokeout
Known for great BBQ with a style all its own, the city of Chicago will play host to thousands of BBQ and music lovers from all over the country at The Windy City Smokeout in August of 2022. The huge BBQ competition and country music festival will take place over four days in the parking lot of the United Center. Get ready for all the delicious BBQ, live music performances, and beer you can handle.
This competition and festival has been one of the largest barbecue events in the U.S. for the last 11 years and was recently named the best food festival in Illinois by MSN. The 2022 event will feature several dozen of the world’s top pitmasters as well as more than 15 country music acts. Stay tuned to the event website for the Pitmaster and music artist lineups for 2022.
There will be both General Admission and VIP tickets available for purchase soon, with part of the proceeds going to local Chicago charity organizations.
Location: Kansas City, KS
Dates: September 2022, specific dates TBA
Another bucket-list BBQ competition in 2022 that you should definitely check out is the immersive American Royal World Series of Barbecue at the Kansas Speedway in September. The 2022 event will be the 42nd year of the world’s largest BBQ competition that is also dubbed “Kansas City’s biggest party”.
The specific dates for next year's event have not been announced yet, but it usually runs for 4 days and draws over 500 competition BBQ teams from all over the world (even Australia) as well as over 50,000 spectators. Teams battle it out for the opportunity to be crowned Grand Champion in the Open Competition, Invitational Competition, or Sides Competition, as well as major bragging rights.
This event offers something for everyone with delicious barbecue, behind-the-scenes tours with pitmasters, incredible live music, vendors from all over the country, and kid’s events and activities.
Location: Lexington, NC
Dates: October 22nd, 2022
Source: The Barbecue Festival
Back for its 38th year, The Barbecue Festival in Lexington, NC is a can’t miss event of the year in the Carolinas. It’s even been recognized as one of the “Top Ten Food Festival in America” by Travel & Leisure Magazine. After having to cancel the festival in 2021 due to COVID, this one-day event will be better than ever. There will be no shortage of great barbecue and fun attractions.
The Barbecue festival, showcasing some of the best-tasting barbecue from BBQ restaurants and cookers around the area, revolves around one popular regional type of BBQ: “Lexington style”, named after the city of Lexington, NC. This Western North Carolina style of barbecue features a tangy, vinegar-based sauce that is lightly sweetened and reddened using ketchup.
The free event will also feature live music on multiple entertainment stages, several hundred food and arts & crafts vendors, and more! Keep an eye on the event’s website as more details about the 2022 event are released.
These are just a few of the biggest and best festivals and BBQ competitions happening across America in 2022. If you want to be up close and personal to some of the world’s best BBQ Pitmasters, Grillmasters, and Ancillary cookers, eat some world-class barbecue, and have a great time, make sure to check these events out if you can!
Have you been to or competed in any of these great competitions or festivals before? Planning on going to one in 2022? Leave a comment below. We want to hear all about it!
If you want to hone your backyard cooking skills before these events next year, or even get ready to enter one as a competitor, you can learn everything you need to know straight from the barbecue pros here at BBQ Champs Academy.
You’ll get insider tips and learn competition-caliber techniques up close and personal in our online BBQ cooking classes with champion BBQ Pitmasters and Grillmasters. Check out our all-access passes for the full inside scoop or try out classes individually.
Also, make sure to subscribe to the BBQ Champs Academy YouTube channel for all the latest videos full of insider info and BBQ news!