For some states, music and art festivals bring in the people. For other states, barbecue is the main attraction. Kentucky, Missouri, the Carolinas, Oklahoma and Texas are known for their great barbecue restaurants. So it is only logical to presume that their barbecue festivals are also most well attended and lucrative. Thanks to media outlets, such as celebrity food chefs, as well as the Travel and Food Networks, barbecue festivals have garnered more publicity within recent years. The best part? Serious cash can be made as people from all over come together for these tasty events.
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In May, Tennessee hosts the Sevierville's Bloomin' Barbeque & Blue Grass festival. This event draws almost 30,000 people from all over to a community with a population of roughly half of that. On average, event goers stay in Sevierville for two to three days and spend about $1,500. Although the event is free, vendor booths, food and other items are available at a fee to complete the delicious attraction.
Last year, 54 competitors, 65 judges, and 24 vocal competitors (mostly from the Southeast) all paid a fee to attend, including the cook teams, who entered for a $250 fee. Sponsors also have a chance to get in on the action; for a minimum of $2,500, a company can help fund the event in exchange for featuring their brand logos. Sevierville hoteliers are thrilled with their bookings and find the patrons a real financial boost for the area. Although numbers are hard to determine, the festival brings in approximately $30 million to Sevierville's economy.
Memphis in May International Festival is listed in the "Guinness book of World Records" as the largest barbecued pork festival. An attendee can either buy the $8 ticket charge single day pass online or at the gate or purchase a $375 VIP packages, which include festival memorabilia and parking. Teams compete for more than $100,000 in prize money along with the bragging rights to call themselves World Champion.
According to its site, the nonprofit festival "generates more than $40 million in economic impact." (Can't afford to get to Tennessee for barbecue season? Have fun at home: 8 Great Ideas For Your Summer Staycation.)
The official food festival of the Piedmont Triad Region, The Lexington Barbecue Festival, takes place in North Carolina. The entertainment and attractions are free and the fun festival brings in more than 150,000 event goers to a city of only around 23,000. Food vendors along with three contracted barbecue tents sell great smoked pork dishes, including barbecue sandwiches. The festival boasts an estimated economic impact of $20 million per year within the Triad region alone. This year's event takes place on October 23, 2010.
The BBQ Championship and Bluegrass Festival is a one-day festival generally taking place in early September, and is held on the historical plantation, the Boone Hall. Boasting an amateur chef contest and a mechanical bull, it is quite well known around those parts. Additionally, over $3,000 in cash and prizes is awarded in many categories of the barbecue competition. Last year, over 4,000 attended and each year it garners more attention. (It's not just barbecue festivals that bring in the dough for cities. Find out more in Top City-Boosting Summer Events.)
Kansas City, Missouri
The Annual American Royal Barbecue held in Kansas City, Missouri, September 30 - October 3, 2010, boasts the largest barbecue contest in the world. According the official site, the American Royal is a not-for-profit organization that "attracts some 162,000 visitors annually, generating $62 million of economic impact, $4.4 million in local tax revenues, and supporting 450 jobs."
The Columbus Annual June BBQ CookOff takes place from June 11-12, 2010, with a $100 fee to enter the competition. Prizes include first place wins of $200, second place meat category earning $150 and third place of $100. The event brings people and brings businesses into the community that would settle into the county after seeing their facilities. Additionally, the event has around a $35 million economic impact.
One of Kentucky's largest annual barbecue festivals, the International Bar-B-Q Festival, is held in Owensboro. There is no charge to attend and it draws over 85,000 people every year. Additionally, many boast that the fees for the barbecue, especially the unique meat of mutton, arts and crafts, and food and beverage vendors are quite reasonable. According to their site, the tourism economic impact in Kentucky was $10.8 billion in 2009, a large part due to visitors of smaller rural locales like the International Bar-B-Q Festival. Interested in attending? The next Festival is scheduled for May 13 and 14, 2011.
What's Your Flavor?
These festivals allow people to explore each state's rich barbecue history. Texas is best for the size and cuts of meat, Memphis for dry ribs and North Carolina for its barbecue sauce. Whether you like thinner, mustard or vinegar based sauces, or sweet charcoal, thicker tomato- based ones, each unique festival has the potential to bring in the big bucks. (For more, see 22 Ways To Fight Rising Food Costs and Budget-Friendly Summer Fun.)
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