Here’s the meat: One of the country’s biggest barbecues will take place next week — and it’s free.
The 22nd Best in the West Nugget Rib Cook-off runs from Wednesday through Sept. 6, drawing a half-million people to Victorian Square in downtown Sparks, Nev.
“The Nugget Rib Cook-off has grown over the years to become one of the largest barbecue events in the country,” said Beth Cooney, executive director of marketing at John Ascuaga’s Nugget. “People visit from literally all over the world. ... Last year, we again encountered record crowds. Our midweek days were at or near capacity, while the weekends were as strong as ever.”
The culinary event includes music, crafts, top-name entertainment, the world championship rib-eating contest and other activities.
The 24 competitive rib cookers will compete for a total cash purse of $14,500 and the title: “Best of the West.” Desperado BBQ and Rib Co. of Hinckley, Ohio, won in 2010.
In the rib-eating contest, three-time winner Joey Chestnut of San Jose — the four-time champ of the July 4 Nathan’s hot-dog-eating contest — will be back, among a dozen eaters. Chestnut was narrowly defeated last year by Pat Bertoletti, though Chestnut still holds the world record, set in 2008, by downing 9.8 pounds of rib meat.
The Nugget opened as a 60-seat coffee shop with a few slot machines in 1955. John Ascuaga bought it in 1960, growing it into a full-service resort, with two 29-story hotel towers, casino, entertainment, food, and conference and spa operations.
The festival was started in 1989 by the Nugget, which is still owned and operated by John Ascuaga and his family.
IF YOU GO
When: Wednesday through Sept. 6
Where: Victorian Square in front of the Nugget, downtown Sparks, Nevada
What: Outdoor barbecue, entertainment, vendors
On the Web: www.nuggetribcookoff.com
Etc.: 100 tons of ribs served in 2009, cook-off, rib-eating contest, huge kids area
Where: 1100 Nugget Ave., Sparks, Nevada
Phone: (800) 648-1177
On the Web: www.janugget.com
Hotel rooms: 1,600