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Barbecue Festivals in Central Florida

By: Jessica Roberts

A new year signals the return of barbecue festivals in Central Florida. You’ll find several opportunities to experience
mouthwatering barbecue during your next visit to Polk County. Plan to attend one of our popular annual competitions such as Lakeland PigFest, Smoke on the Water and Ribs on the Ridge. These annual events take place in January and February. You’ll find details for each of these events and more below.

people standing in line for barbecue at Lakeland PigFest

Vendor at Lakeland PigFest

Barbecue Festivals in January

Bring your appetite, as many of the competing teams will be selling their barbecue specialties for your enjoyment.

Lake Alfred Bluegrass & BBQ Bash

Lake Alfred’s Annual Bluegrass & BBQ Bash kicks off the new year on January 11 at Lions Park. The day will be filled with world class bluegrass, including Southern Express Bluegrass and Highway 41 South, and food from some of the top BBQ teams from across Florida competing for cash prizes and trophies.

Lakeland PigFest

Lakeland PigFest takes place on Friday evening and Saturday, January 24 – 25, at SUN ‘n FUN Expo Campus in Lakeland. This festival is the area’s largest barbecue competition and admission is free. Attendees exchange cash for “Pig Bucks”, the official currency of the Lakeland PigFest, to purchase food.

More than 150 teams compete during a weekend of good eating, good friends and good tunes. Professional teams travel from all over the U.S. to compete in four categories: Ribs, Chicken, Pork and Brisket. Lakeland PigFest is a Kansas City Barbecue Society (KCBS) sanctioned event. KCBS is the largest international organization of barbecue enthusiasts.

Barbecue Festivals in February

If your schedules don’t align with the January festivals, have no fear! Below you’ll find details about barbecue events in February.

Budweiser Smoke on the Water BBQ Festival

Smoke on the Water BBQ Festival returns to Winter Haven on Saturday, February 8, from 10:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. More than 80 teams from across the country compete in this event, which is a qualifier for both the Jack Daniel’s World Championship Invitational Barbecue. Most importantly, nominal fees for admission and parking benefit the Citrus Center Boys & Girls Clubs of Winter Haven, Lake Wales and Haines City.

Barbecue will be available for purchase. Attendees can also enjoy three stages full of entertainment, in addition to water ski shows on Lake Cannon.

Ribs on the Ridge

Ribs on the Ridge takes place at Lake Eva Park in Haines City on Friday evening, February 21 and Saturday, February 22.
This growing event has been the Florida BBQ Association’s largest competition for the last 5 years and is a Jack Daniel’s Qualifier. Approximately 100 teams compete and the festival includes entertainment, food and craft vendors, and fun activities for the family.

After taking a summer break, barbecue festivals in Central Florida resume in the fall with Mulberry’s Fine Swine at the Pit in October.

Man looking at racks of ribs cooking inside barbecue pit at Peebles Bar B Que in Auburndale, FL

Peebles Bar-B-Q in Auburndale

Area Barbecue Restaurants

If you can’t make it to one of these barbecue festivals, never fear. You can feed your barbecue habit all year long in Polk  County, as our area offers numerous barbecue restaurants. Well known, popular establishments that fired up in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s include Peebles Bar-B-Q and Jimbo’s Pit Bar B-Q respectively. Brock’s Smoke Hut has been recognized by National Barbecue News as one of the “Best of the Best Barbecue Restaurants in America.” Smokin Jim’s House of Bar-B-Q in Auburndale received TripAdvisor’s Certificate of Excellence in 2014. This round-up barely scratches the surface of BBQ options so check out our Eat & Drink section for more restaurant options.

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