The number of BBQ-themed festivals in North Carolina keeps growing, but here are some of the bigger ones. For a more complete list, click on the Events tab at the top of the page.
The Barbecue Festival – This is definitely THE barbecue festival in NC, drawing over 100,000 hungry folks each year. Come to see the annual barbecue-themed sand sculpture (inset) and stay for the 12,000 pounds of pig served each year. Like many BBQ festivals, this one really is more about music, arts & crafts, and so on, but it is a good time and doesn’t take itself too seriously. If you want really good ‘que, skip the stuff they serve at the festival tents and walk to one of the many great joints in and around downtown.
The Ham & Yam Festival - Held in NC’s hog capital, Smithfield, this festival is one we must admit we have yet to attend. From what we’ve heard, it features the usual mix of music, crafts, etc. We also assume barbecue is available (we hope it isn’t just a celebration of ham sandwiches). And yams must be for sale, right? We are speculating here.
Hillsborough Hog Day - The largest festival in Orange County, Hillsborough Hog Day draws 30,000+ people a year and features the usual array of arts & crafts, a car show, etc. For more fun, drop by the night before the festival to see dozens of competitors cooking ‘que. Our only complaints about Hog Day are that it tends to be beastly hot in June, making barbecue consumption somewhat less enjoyable.
Blue Ridge BBQ & Music Festival – We’ve never been to this festival and are somewhat distrustful of it, given its inclusion of ribs and other types of barbecue, but it includes an officially sanctioned cooking competition. Oddly enough this competition decides the North Carolina State Barbecue Championship, yet is judged by judges certified by the Kansas City Barbecue Society. Hmm… that ain’t right.
Western NC BBQ Festival – This is another festival we have yet to attend, and it also features a competition sanctioned by the Kansas City Barbecue Society. (We are beginning to understand why Jim Early formed the NC BBQ Society.) Frankly, we are skeptical of much of the pork passed off as barbecue in the far west of the state, which is too often drenched in gloopy red sauce imported from Tennessee, and the fact that tourist town Maggie Valley plays host is not promising. Still, where there is smoked pork all is not lost. And the NC mountains are a great place to visit in September.