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Put on your stretchy pants because it’s time for the 29th annual Best in the West Nugget Rib Cook-off running Aug. 30-Sept. 4 at the Nugget Casino Resort in Sparks. The event boasts two dozen of the world’s top barbecue competitors, who’ll be serving up more than 240,000 pounds of ribs to thousands of visitors.

“We’re so excited to welcome back 22 of the country’s best rib cookers to this year’s event,” said Caddie Dufurrena, marketing and communications coordinator for the Nugget. “It’s their talent with sauces and rubs that make this one of the most prestigious barbecue competitions around.”

Tough competition

The competition is serious business. Rib cookers will compete for a piece of the $19,500 prize purse. Judges will double-blind taste the same ribs served to the public. Ribs are judged for their appearance, taste and texture, while sauces are judged for color, viscosity and taste. And for the first time, voting for the $500 People’s Choice Award will be done online. Voting begins Aug. 30 as the festival opens, and closes on the event’s final day at noon Sept. 4. Votes for your favorite ribs can be cast once per day.

Top prizes will be judged by a panel that includes head judge Alan Zeman, who has been inducted into the American Academy of Chefs, Allen Pierleoni of the Sacramento Bee, Ken Wayne of KTVU, Matt Russell of On the Menu … Live, Mike Peters of the Great American BBQ Tour, Spud Hilton of the San Francisco Chronicle, Sparks Mayor Geno Martini, Jave Patterson of KOZZ, Sparks Chief of Police Brian Allen, Sparks Fire Department Chief Chris Maples, Reno-Gazette-Journal Executive Editor Kelly Ann Scott, Karen Cannan from Truckee Meadows Community College Culinary Arts and Rudy Palominos, Reno Media Group program director and on-air personality. Winners of the competition will be announced at 2 p.m. Sept. 4.

Competitors hail from throughout the West, but some featured cookers call the Truckee Meadows home, including BJ’s Barbecue and Carson City Barbecue.

Rib Village

Die hard rib fans can check out the Rib Village, described as a “barbecue lovers paradise” with all-you-can-eat ribs from every participating rib vendor, as well as side dishes, dessert and all-you-can-drink responsibly beverages, including beer and wine. Single tickets range from $100-$120, while tables of 10 range from $950 to $1,200.

And although the food is the main draw to the festival, the event also offers a kids’ area with rides and activities, Crafter’s Crossing featuring vendors from throughout the West and a beer garden featuring craft beers selected to complement all things barbecue.

Free street and garage parking in and around Victorian Square is limited and fills quickly. Take advantage of the event’s free shuttles at two locations: the Iron Horse Shopping Center at 535 E. Prater Way in Sparks, and the Reno-Sparks Convention Center parking lot on the corner of Coliseum Way and Peckham Lane in Reno. Shuttles run 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily, with service available on Labor Day from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.

The event also will feature free nightly entertainment and an afternoon performance on Sept. 4.

“We know that the entertainment lineup we have scheduled this year is really going energize and thrill the crowds,” Dufurrena said. “Victorian Square will be filled with some fabulous musical superstars.”

Entertainment lineup

All shows are free and open to the public. 

Main Stage Entertainment:

  • Aug. 30, 7 p.m.: The Romantics
  • Aug. 31, 7 p.m.: Night Ranger
  • Sept. 1, 7 p.m.: Love & Theft
  • Sept. 2, 7 p.m.: Gin Blossoms
  • Sept. 3, 7 p.m.: Eric Paslay
  • Sept: 4, 3 p.m.: A Flock of Seagulls

Plaza Stage Entertainment:

  • Aug. 30, 6 p.m.: Bon Fire (Tribute to AC/DC)
  • Aug. 31, 6 p.m.: Shades of Twain (Tribute to Shania Twain)
  • Sept. 1, 6 p.m.: Boogie Nights (Classic Disco)
  • Sept. 2, 6 p.m.: Country Artists (Tribute to Kenny Chesney)
  • Sept. 3, 6 p.m.: Life in the Fastlane (Songs of the Eagles)
  • Sept. 4, 1 p.m.: Ultimate Stones (Tribute to the Rolling Stones)
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