A new year signals the return of barbecue festivals to Polk County. You’ll find several opportunities to experience mouthwatering barbecue during your Central Florida vacation. Plan to attend one of our popular annual competitions such as Lakeland PigFest, Smoke on the Water and Ribs on the Ridge, which are coming up in January and February. You'll find details for each of these events and more below.
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.
The 24th Annual Lakeland PigFest takes place on Friday evening and Saturday, January24 - 25, at SUN 'n FUN Expo Campus in Lakeland. This festival is the area’s largest barbecue competition of the year. Admission is free but attendees must exchange cash for “Pig Bucks”, the official currency of the Lakeland PigFest, to purchase food.
More than 150 teams are expected to compete, for a weekend of good eating, good friends and good tunes; to benefit Lakeland-area charities. 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 and the 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 are expected to compete in this event, a qualifier for both the Jack Daniel's World Championship Invitational Barbecue and the Florida BBQ Association Triple Crown. Nominal fees for admission and parking benefit the Citrus Center Boys & Girls Clubs of Winter Haven, Lake Wales and Haines City.
Barbeque will be available for purchase and attendees can also enjoy three stages full of entertainment, and water ski shows on Lake Cannon, over the course of the day.
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 five years and is a Jack Daniel’s Qualifier. Approximately 100 teams are expected to compete and the festival will have entertainment, food and craft vendors and fun activities for the whole family.
After taking a break over the summer, BBQ festivals resume in the fall with Mulberry’s Fine Swine at the Pit in October.
Area Barbecue Restaurants
If you can’t make it to one of these several 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 dining section to see details on these and the many additional restaurants available in the area.