Best in the West Nugget Rib Cook Off 2023

AUGUST 30, 2023 - SEPTEMBER 04, 2023


At the Super Bowl of rib competitions, you can gnaw meat off of over 250,000 pounds of rib bone with your bare hands.

The Best in the West Nugget Rib Cook off, penned by many as the best and biggest barbecue festival — the Super Bowl of rib competitions — in the country, showcases over 20 of the country’s best rib purveyors in the heart of downtown Sparks, Nevada. The festival takes place over six days on six city blocks and strongly encourages you to revert to childlike tendencies — as in, bring your bib and your wet wipes.

Skilled rib cookers come from all over the country to share their creations and compete for (the incredibly random) $19,000 in cash. The roster of barbecue cookers is long and wide this year. Hailing from Mt. Laurel, New Jersey is Butch’s Smack Your Lips BBQ, whose founder Butch Lupinetti won a throwdown against Bobby Flay on the Food Network in 2006. Butch has since passed, but the business has continued in all his glory in the hands of his daughter and son-in-law. You can also sample Memphis-style barbecue from Just North of Memphis, which has been in business for over 20 years. And watch out for Sparks locals BJ’s Nevada Barbecue Company, who won first place last year. 

There will be an interesting mix of music to accompany the rib eating, including 90s pop punk band LIT, classic rock favorite Warrant who released the infamous song “Cherry Pie,” and the Bob Marley cover band The Legendary Wailers, which includes one of the original members of Bob Marley and the Wailers. 

The Specs

  • It’s estimated that anywhere from 350,000 to 400,000 thousand people will attend over the course of the festival’s six days, and that more than 250,000 pounds of ribs will be served.
  • This rib eating extravaganza is open to the public and free of admission. However, guests that want a more curated experience can purchase VIP tickets to the Rib Village — sit at a table with nine other enthusiasts for lunch that includes your choice of a sandwich or sampler plate with unlimited beverages, and a shaded seating area for $49, or an all-you-can-eat lunch or dinner for $130.
  • For those of you looking to explore other parts of Nevada, check out this guide to the best things to do in the state. 


What is the closest airport to Best in the West Nugget Rib Cook Off?

Sparks is located in northern Nevada and the Reno-Tahoe International Airport is only 5.2 miles from the festival. 

How far is Sparks from Reno, NV?

Sparks is just outside Reno, four miles away.

How far is Carson City to Sparks, NV?

Carson City is 32 miles south from Sparks.

Is the festival on Labor Day?

The six-day fest ends on Labor Day, which is Monday, Sept 4.

How can I become a rib vendor? 

The fest is currently accepting applications. If you would like to be considered, send a detailed resume and booth photos to [email protected] or the address below: 

Nugget Casino Resort

Attn: Special Events Department
1100 Nugget Avenue
Sparks, NV 89431

Where does the festival happen exactly in Sparks?

The event is held at Victorian Square which is on Victorian Avenue, just down the road from the Nugget Casino Resort.

Which artists are playing Best in the West Nugget Rib Cook Off fest 2023?

LIT with Chad Tepper, Warrant with Paralandra, The Legendary Wailers, Lindsay Ell, Collin Raye, The Gatlin Brothers, DJ Kentot, Mighty Mike Schermer, Buddy Emmer, Jason King Band, White Water Retooled, Valentine Rodeo, DJ Jeremy McGuigan, Audioboxx, Jelly Bread, DJ M Slack, Delta Cat, Jake’s Garage Band, Sierra Roc.

Who will play the main stage?

LIT with Chad Tepper (Wed), Lindsay Ell (Thurs), Collin Raye (Fri), Warrant with Paralandra (Sat), The Gatlin Brothers (Sun), and The Legendary Wailers (Mon) are set for the main stage.

When will the best ribs winners be revealed?

The winners will be announced on Monday, September 4 at 2pm.

What do the cook-off winners receive?

According to the website, the prize money is as follow:

  • 1st Place: $10,000
  • 2nd Place: $5,000
  • 3rd Place: $2,000
  • 4th Place: $1,000
  • 5th Place: $500
  • Best Sauce:  $500

Who won the best ribs at last year’s Best in the West Nugget Rib Cook-Off?

BJ’S BBQ won in 2022. For a report of the event, see this.

2022 Recap

#nuggetribcookoff on TikTok


BY Ayla Burnett