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Jun 3, 2008 02:07 PM

Blue Ridge BBQ Festival

I have never been to the Blue Ridge BBQ Festival in Tryon, NC. Is it worth going to enjoy some good Q?


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  1. it's a decent festival. i think it's shrunk some over the years (seem to be fewer q vendors now than when i started going 15 or so years ago, although the # of non-bbq purveyors has increased). nowadays there are probably 8-10 q vendors, then all the various festival foods. the q vendors are hit-or-miss on quality (usually range from blah to good, never great), especially on friday & early on sat/sun as they haven't had time to get going at that point. the flip side is if you go when the q is at it's best, the crowds will also be at their worst. for good food, the best strategy is to go while the competitors are smoking their entries, as they will usually give out samples if you show some interest & knowledge.

    there's usually some decent music; to my recollection it trends toward bluegrass & country, but there's generally something for all. there's a kid's play area that has grown substantially over the years. can't comment on alchol sales as there is always a very heavy state trooper presence in the area during the festival, and, as i live in asheville and have to run the gauntlet, i don't risk it.

    is it worth going? well, for me, that depends on how far you're going. personally, i wouldn't drive more than 45min-1hr for it, especially with gas prices the way they are now. we/i used to go annually, but as the # of vendors has decreased, the quality of those remaining has fallen off, and my own grilling/smoking abilities have grown (2nd & 3rd points may just be flip sides of the same coin as my expectations are now substantially higher than when i first started going/getting into bbq), we/i switched to every other year, and now are going every 3rd year (2009 will be the next one for us). the way i see it, for the cost of gas, admission (~$5/pp) & food (we usually spend $50-60), i can put on an fairly elaborate bbq at home featuring a variety of meats (of greater variety & quality), coolers full of good local beer & invite my friends over.

    if you do go: take a blanket/chairs, there are tents set up with tables, but getting a seat at busy times can be tricky, and the tents generally don't have the best view of the stage; bugs are generally not a problem, but if you're a mosquito magnet, you'll want spray; seems to rain every year at some point, usually not heavily, but be prepared; if you aren't into crowds, friday afternoon before 5 is a great time to go (you probably won't even need the shuttle as you'll be able to park so close); there's little shade except for under the dining tents (the competitors' area is shaded and cooler) & it's usually hot.

    hope you enjoy it if you go!

    1. Like already posted,crowds can be extreme.

      Mark gave a pretty honest description for a spectator.

      We have cooked the comp , the last few years,so we are in before the circus starts.

      *80-90 teams.

      At its worst,the traffic will back up miles out the Interstate.

      Lots of long walks,usually some rain,usually some quality entertainment.

      No coolers are allowed,but I'd guess they sell beer.

      We try to rent a cabin locally for the cookteam,a year in advance,as accomodations are almost non existent

      I haven't seen a bbq vendor list yet,but some top cook teams will usually vend.

      The organizers have made the requirements to vend such a hassle that comp teams may not vend.

      Some good teams that vend,sometimes ,:

      Texas RibRangers
      Music City Pigpals
      Checkered Pig

      It is a definite destination,always worth doing once,but I agree there can be some real hassle and expense.

      It is a favorite of many cookteams,for the top competition.

      Most would consider it the best in the Carolinas ,Ga,Va,WV,Maryland,and all the Eastern seaboard.


      6 Replies
      1. re: TomFl

        hi tom,

        i'll bet we've actually crossed paths to some extent as i always troll the competitors area. would you care to tell us which team is yours'? (i guess that might violate the no-shilling rule, though.)

        over time the various vendors blend together, but i recall enjoying the checkered pig last time i went. texas rib rangers were very good 2x times ago (which was on a saturday), but last time (on a friday), the ribs were awful (underseasoned & undercooked) to the point we didn't finish them (had it not been for the line i'd have returned them). so, like i posted above, hit-or-miss, even with the better vendors.

        can you, without shooting yourself in the foot, elaborate on what the organizers do to make it difficult for vendors? i really feel that the public part of the festival has suffered over the past 10 years or so, what with fewer q vendors. they seem to have no problems finding various fried-on-a-stick-type vendors. when i first started going in the early '90s it was pretty much just q & whatever sides you got with the plate. now, it's generic festival food, the non-competition part of it at least, with an emphasis on bbq.

        to the op, after reading tom's response and rereading your post, yes, if you have never been, it's worth, as tom writes, going once. my initial response is that of someone who's been 10 or so times, and knows the pitfalls & some of the history.

        1. re: mark

          Hello Mark,

          The last year you were there,if you turned immediate left, as you entered the main grounds ,and follow along that ditch,road etc to the big shade tree.

          We,FireHouseBBQ,would have been there.

          Byrons ButtRubb on one side,B,S PitMeister[ the GC] on the other.

          We were 4 th overall,I believe.After awhile ,many of them run together,without going back to the books.LOL

          We share a house with the Pigpals,and cook comps with them, some.

          I'd prefer to not say anything negative about the organizers,as they are making assurances to improve things for the teams,and rein in costs for what is provided.

          Many places,the organizers try to make money from the teams,and explain it as "being for charity"

          Our several years there have been fun,and the judges were kind to us.

          As you mentioned ,it is an expensive trip-especially from south Fl.


          1. re: TomFl

            Mark,a friend handed me a book, yesterday.

            Murder At The Blue Ridge Barbecue Festuval,by Gene Davis.

            Paperback from Jawbone publishing in Newnan,Ga 2008.

            The writer is a cook,and experienced with the festival and the townspeople and KCBS.

            Haven't started it yet,but it looks like being there.


            1. re: TomFl

              I would recommend the Big Pig Jig in Vienna, GA. Probably the largest BBQ comp in the Deep South and has a long history. Definitely easier to reach from FL.

              1. re: bbqme

                Yes,have been there a few years.

                It is all the best of Memphis in May,without all the circus at Tom Lee park on the Riverbank,tornadoes,hail,mud,etc.

                I can heartily recommend it for a spectator.

                For cooks,it is apples and oranges.

                That said,it is an all pork contest,where you may only cook one category.


              2. re: TomFl


                I know the author, Gene Davis, and he is not a cooker - he volunteered for the Festival one year - but fell in love with the event and wrote a book about it. He coordinated alot with KCBS. Its a fun read, not Tolstoy, but fun.

        2. Hi,

          I'd say yes it is a good festival. All the q-vendors are also competing so the food is way above average. No one besides those q-vendors sell meat except for some hotdogs in the kids rides area - everything else is usual festival stuff - fries, corn, icecream, yadayada. Also, someone below mentioned getting samples from cookers in the Hog Heaven competition and that's true, but up to the individual cooker when or what or even if.

          The music is killer! Two stage both days, last year they had everything from funk and fusion to zydeco. I never heard any bluegrass or what I would call country and I hear a lot of the music.

          I'm a local Tryonite and a fan of the Festival, in case you couldn't tell!