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America’s 10 Best Gut-Busting BBQ Festivals, Ranked

It's that time of year again. Outdoor activities also mean getting out the grill and enjoying some old-fashioned barbecue. Whether you roast it, grill it or bury it in hot coals, it's all a part of the same proud tradition. There are several celebrations of this uniquely American cuisine, and despite their different features, they all have the same thing in common. You can attend any one of these gatherings and stuff your gut with any and all forms of barbecue. Here's a list of the top ten, and there are many other great ones that just wouldn't fit.

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10 The Barbecue Festival, Lexington, NC

There's a certain style of local barbecue simply called Lexington Style, and that's the focus of this popular community event. The festival takes place on October 26th and includes a car show, a golf tournament, sand sculptures and a cycling race known as the Tour de Pig. Several barbecue tents are filled with delectable goodies, all celebrating the unique Lexington Style of barbecue. Other treats are available, like pigtail fries, that are also unique to the region.

9 Big Apple Barbecue Block Party, Madison Square Park, New York

The name is still in use, but recent news updates say that this popular festival has outgrown its original home and a search for a bigger site is currently ongoing. This has become New York's 6th biggest annual event, and usually takes place in early or mid-June.

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Like previous years, it will feature art and music, be completely open to the public, and of course, there will be lots of barbecue plates to enjoy. The festival aims to bring Southern-hospitality, in particular, culinary styles, into the big city.

8 I Love BBQ and Music Festival, Lake Placid, NY

The name of this festival gets it right with a simple, universal declaration. Lake Placid is a popular summer getaway, so if you're visiting the Adirondacks from July 5th to 7th stop by this country festival. Visitors are entertained with live music and plenty of food samples as a BBQ and cooking competition takes place in the background. Some categories for the competitions are simple, such as Best Chicken or New York Strip Steak, but there are others that are less obvious, like Fatty and Pizza. Younger teams can also enter the contests, with special desert categories just for their age group.

7 Giant National Capital BBQ Championship, Washington, DC

You might not think "BBQ" when you're planning a trip to the nation's capital, but if you're heading to DC from June 22 to 23rd this event is impossible to miss. The festival is family friendly and includes live entertainment, sports, food samples. The whole event is meant to bring some country life into the big city, so this festival has all the attractions and diversions of a proper county fair.

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The focal point of all this activity is the Giant National Barbecue Championship Cooking Contest, which includes such challenges as the Perdue Sizzlin’ Chicken Contest, the Smokin’ with Smithfield Rib Contest, and the True Aussie Lamb Contest.

6 Wine Country Big Q: Sonoma County, Petaluma, CA

Do you know what goes great with wine? Barbecue! Naturally, the folks out in California's wine country love their BBQ as much as anyone else. Of course, this festival includes a tasting area for both wine and spirits. Not only do they focus on meticulous wine and spirits pairings but also the authenticity of the barbecue. The festival includes demonstrations and a variety of contests for famous BBQ sides, like baked beans and baked potatoes. Buying an advanced ticket is required and the event takes place every year on the first Saturday in July.

5 South Sound BBQ Festival, Lacey, WA

Grilled salmon, anyone? But this is just the tip of a snowy mountain peak when it comes to barbecue culture and the Pacific Northwest. The location of this festival gives a unique taste, pun intended, that you won't find anywhere else in the United States. In addition to local delicacies, virtually every type of barbecued cuisine is represented at this festival.

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You can either find them as part of the main event, a cooking contest sanctioned by the Pacific Northwest BBQ Association, or as a menu item offered by one of the many local food vendors. The festival is on for one day, and this year it's Saturday, July 13th.

4 Russian River Beer Revival & BBQ Cook-Off, Monte Rio, CA

These folks are serious about their barbecue and their booze. Leave the kids at home and grab a folding chair so you have a place to eat, drink and be happy. Get a designated driver or hop on the convenient shuttle bus before heading out to Monte Rio Beach. You need a ticket to get in, but your entry fee includes cider, beer, food tastings, and live music. There are typically 30 breweries featured along with an equal amount of competitors in the cook-off. This year the event takes place on Saturday, August 17th.

3 Jack Daniel's World Championship Barbecue Invitational, Lynchburg, VA

Two things that Virginia is known for, barbecue and that famous beverage known simply as "JD," form a delicate and delicious balance at this unique festival. Jack Daniel's doesn't just sponsor this festival, it hosts it and sets the weekend schedule.

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The BBQ competition includes more than 100 teams, with several international guests competing along with teams from all over the United States. The festival includes live music, games for visitors, and a pie auction in addition to the several barbecue competitions. This festival takes place on October 25 and 26th in 2019.

2 Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo World's Championship Bar-B-Que Contest, TX

The time of year makes this barbecue festival different. Instead of a summer celebration, this festival takes place in late February, which could be an early spring in some parts of Texas. More than 250 teams are invited to compete in the contest, and the festival also includes a carnival complete with rides, food vendors and an array of games and diversions. The grounds are complete with a saloon, a garden stage, and a chuck wagon. Everyone can enjoy a plate of complementary brisket and beans with their entertainment.

1 The American Royal World Series of Barbecue, Kansas City, MO

Often touted as Kansas City's biggest party, you can see for yourself if you're visiting in September between the 12th and 15th. This is the longest and oldest festival on the list, encompassing four whole days, and the upcoming festival is the 40th anniversary. For an immersive, authentic and delicious experience, this festival should be on your bucket list if you love barbecue. This is a family-friendly community event with plenty of activities and entertainment for everyone to enjoy. There's a rodeo, equine events and a livestock show to see along with one of the biggest barbecue competitions in the country.

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