38th Annual BBQ Fest on the Neuse coming this week

38th Annual BBQ Fest on the Neuse coming this week

The 38th Annual BBQ Fest on the Neuse will transform downtown Kinston May 3-4 with more than 175 vendors, 100 cook teams, and an expected attendance of 40,000.

Fire up the grill! Eastern North Carolina's favorite pitmasters are going pig-to-pig in competition as one of Kinston's most delicious festival returns. A treat for barbecue lovers, the community and visitors alike, the BBQ Fest on the Neuse brings everyone together for two days of non-stop action. 

Presented by the Kinston-Lenoir County Chamber of Commerce and sponsored by Spirit AeroSystems, the 38th annual festival takes place May 3-4 in downtown Kinston. North Carolina's largest whole hog cook-off joins a host of events including live entertainment, a car and truck show, vendor shopping, amusement rides, activities for kids, arts and crafts, fireworks, and much more. 

“The BBQ Fest on the Neuse gives people the opportunity to discover what they didn’t know was here. Whether you live in Kinston or are visiting, this is a great weekend to come and see life is good here,” Jan Parson, festival director, said.  “What’s better than a festival, food, agriculture and art?”

There’s something for everyone with more than 175 vendors lining the streets. More than 180 classic cars will roll in to the festival for the Sale Auto Mall Annual Open Car Show with proceeds benefiting the Ronald McDonald House.

The Showmanship is always a fun and entertaining competition. Walk with the judges and watch as cook teams “put on the hog” or rather their best hog inspired performance showcasing everything for gambling pigs to a pig funeral.

“When I joined 13 years ago, there were between 23 and 25 cook teams, no vendors and approximately 2-3,000 in attendance,” Parson said. “Now, we have 40,000 attendees and have grown to 100 cook teams making us the largest whole hog cook off in the nation.”

Judging for the Hog Happenin’ Cook Off begins at 8 a.m. on Saturday, and sales of barbecue plates begin at 11 a.m. The plates always sell out, so get there early.

Need a beverage after all the barbecue tastings?  From lemonade and sweet tea to beer and wine, the festival has the right beverage to quench your thirst. The Social House Vodka Garden, Mother Earth Beer Garden, Mother Earth Sercy Garden, and additional wine and craft beer gardens are ready for you to sit, relax and enjoy all the locally made spirits.

“The BBQ Festival is a lot more than barbecue. Though barbecue is important -- we have 100 teams cook 100 whole hogs -- there is so much more to do in this one weekend,” Parson, added.

The Farmers Market, amusement rides, fireworks, performances by popular bands, local dance studios, and choirs, a cookbook signing with Sam Jones of Sam Jones BBQ, tours of The O’Neil Luxury Hotel and smART Kinston district, and cookies with the ladies of Southern Sugar Bakery, help round out a very full weekend of activities.

Everything along the festival route is designated with signs and markers for easy navigation. Look for balloons with emojis flying above the ATMs and portable toilets. Light poles will double as directions, for each will have banners denoting the designation of activities such as “car show” or “bands.”

Attendees traditionally top 40,000, so text KINSTONBBQ to 797979 for festival updates, follow along on the BBQ Fest on the Neuse Facebook page, and visit www.kinstonbbq.com to plan your itinerary, review maps and checking the parking and Vernon Park Mall shuttle recommendations. There's even a link to a Google map that will quickly navigate you to all your go-to vendors. 

Beginning Wednesday, two days of pre-festival events gear everyone up for the weekend. Join the Caswell Center Foundation Golf Tournament or the Community Council for the Arts for the Plein Air Paint Out and Que the Arts, an art show and sale.  

Many volunteers and sponsors from the community and surrounding areas make this event possible year-after-year. Every time you see one, offer them a hearty "ThankQ" for their contributions. 

“We have great partnerships that all contribute so much to make this festival happen. The Chamber couldn’t do this without them. People from all over the community – teens, churches, banks, businesses – come together to help. It’s a lot of work, but they are all so excited,” Parson said.

BBQ Fest on the Neuse Google Map created by Magic Mile Media.

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