You go for the entertainment, the atmosphere, and most especially, the food. We Illinoisans love our barbecue festivals so much that they are some of the most popular fairs in the state. From north to south, you could spend the whole summer traveling from pit to pit.
You’ll want to put on your stretchy pants and your best walking shoes for this mouthwatering adventure. Catch all the dates and details below.
We’re aware that these uncertain times are limiting many aspects of life. While we continue to feature destinations that make our state wonderful, please take proper precautions or add them to your bucket list to see at a later date. If you know of a local business that could use some extra support during these times, please nominate them here:
1. Porky's Rib Fest - June 16-18, 2017
Top-rated BBQ restaurants and vendors from all over Chicagoland come together to bring you an experience your taste buds will die for. Participate in the BBQ eating contest and enjoy live entertainment as well as a huge carnival for family fun. The festival takes places at Toyota Park which is at 7000 Harlem Ave. in Bridgeview.
2. Hog Capital BBQ Challenge - June 16-17, 2017
The first annual BBQ challenge in what claims to be "The Hog Capital of the World" will take place in the parking lot of Cerno's Bar & Grill located at 213 W 3rd St. in Kewanee. Don't miss out on the BBQ competition, the winners of which get cash prizes.
3. Six Corners BBQ Fest - June 10-11, 2017
This festival is more like a huge block party than a carnival. Locals bring blankets and chairs to the sidewalks, play lawn games, and dance in the streets. The smell of charcoal cooking burgers and brats will have you in BBQ heaven from first sniff. Kick off summer in the city along Milwaukee Avenue with most festivities centralized at 4041 N Milwaukee Ave. in Chicago.
4. Heritage Days BBQ Showdown - June 24-26, 2017
Throughout downtown Belvidere, this festival features a parade and tons of delicious food. Dozens of pitmasters compete for a grand prize, and you get to taste all their amazing eats.
5. Assumption Fest - June 30 - July 1, 2017
This festival is notorious for its Smokin' Hot BBQ Contest, which is a locals' favorite event each year. As a small town fest, it is primarily a street fair with rides, games, and vendors. There are also craft booths, beauty pageants, and a tractor pull. You'll find the fun along Chestnut Street in the town of Assumption.
6. Naperville's Ribfest - June 30 - July 3, 2017
Though this festival has tons of family carnival fun, vendors, and a delicious contest between BBQ cooks, many will travel far for the live entertainment. Such famous acts as Toby Keith, The B-52's, and A Flock of Seagulls will perform. This Fourth of July weekend, get yourself to 700 S West St. in Naperville for all the fun.
7. Windy City Smokeout - July 14-16, 2017
Enjoy BBQ from 13 of the best pitmasters from across the nation, several of which are from Illinois. In addition to the BBQ, locals come for the live music, beer, friends, and atmosphere. Catch the fun at 560 W Grand Ave. along the Chicago River.
8. BBQ Fest River Road / Kankakee Ribfest - July 14-16, 2017
In addition to a popular BBQ contest, this festival also features live rock and country music concerts, family land carnival, a beer tent, and truck and motorcycle shows. The festival takes place each year at River Road Park at 893 W Station St. in Kankakee.
9. Central Illinois BBQ Throwdown - July 21-22, 2017
This festival takes place at Festival Park at the Peoria Riverfront. Enjoy professional vendors serving up pizza, burgers, and popcorn while you enjoy local bands and family activities. Competitions in both BBQ and pie baking can be entered.
10. Effingham-Jam BBQ Cookoff - July 28-29, 2017
In addition to the BBQ contests, this downtown Effingham event also has a farmer's market, live music, and BBQ tastings. The cookoff features both an amateur competition and one for the professionals for which there are prizes and a People's Choice award.
11. McHenry Rotary Blues, Brews and BBQ - August 18-20, 2017
Just off the scenic McCullom Lake, this blues festival is known for its live music and amazing food. Both professionals and amateurs compete for best in chicken, pork, ribs, and brisket. Come on down to 4311 Lakewood Rd. in McHenry to taste them all.
12. Little Bear Ribfest - August 18-19, 2017
Bring your lawn chairs and blankets to Big Bear Lake, so you can enjoy all the blues bands and delicious food along the waterfront. Take in scenic views of natural landscapes as you chow down on some of the best ribs ever made. The festival takes place at 1001 Lakeview Pkwy. in Vernon Hills.
13. Buffalo Grove Days - August 31 - September 4, 2017
Celebrate the town of Buffalo Grove at the Mike Rylko Community Park located at 951 McHenry Road. There will be a parade, rides, street food, entertainment, a craft fair, and of course, an epic BBQ competition.
14. Glen Ellyn Backyard BBQ - September 9, 2017
Teams compete in this event to see who can make the best BBQ. It is the largest amateur competition in Illinois, and it attracts all ages to 480 Crescent Blvd. in Glen Ellyn each year. In addition to good eats, there is also live music and a street fair.
15. Decatur's Smokin' BBQ Festival - October 6-7, 2017
Summer may be over by this point, but the BBQ doesn't have to be. This Kansas City BBQ-sanctioned event began in 2015 as a way to help raise money for local charities. The event is located at Progress City, USA
E. 6th Progress St. in Decatur and gives out People's Choice awards for professional and backyard pitmasters.
16. Wabash Ribberfest - April 27-28, 2018
Though this very popular festival in Southern Illinois has already happened this year, you'e got plenty of time to get ready for the next one. Each year, a new Illinois State BBQ Champ is crowned, and locals enjoy live entertainment, art exhibits, a wine garden, homemade crafts and treats, as well as cornhole tournaments. It takes place on Market Street in Mt. Carmel.
Which of these BBQ fests do you like best? Tell us about it in the comments below!