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The Arizona BBQ Festival and The Great American BBQ and Beer Festival: A Side-by-Side Comparison

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Over the next two weeks, the Valley will host two barbecue festivals. Now, we've got big appetites over here at Chow Bella, but that's still quite a lot of 'cue for one city.

So if you're trying to decide which fest is for you, we've got an easy-to-understand rundown of how the Arizona BBQ Festival and The Great American BBQ and Beer Festival compare.

See also: 10 Best Culinary Events in Metro Phoenix

The Food

AZ BBQ: This event promises more than 20 "top pitmasters" from all over the state serving brisket, ribs, pulled pork, smoked chicken, and a a whole slew of sides. BBQ vendors include:

  • AZ Barbeque
  • Big Boy Sandwiches
  • Big John's Texas BBQ
  • DL Foods, Inc.
  • Honey Bears BBQ
  • Little Miss BBQ
  • Memphis Best BBQ
  • Montana BBQ
  • Piggly's At The Fair
  • Pork on a Fork
  • Ragin' Cajun Smoking BBQ
  • Sally's BBQ
  • Steel City BBQ
  • Tom's Pig Rig
  • Vekel Smoke Shack
  • Whiskey Ranch

There will also be a Bacon Zone, where local restaurants including Pig & Pickle, Oink Cafe, Crepe Bar, and Traveling Monk will be able to present any dish they want (meaning, not BBQ) -- so long as it includes bacon. Samples will cost an additional $2 each with a portion of the proceeds going to charity.

GABBF: Organizers say they'll have more than 60 pitmasters from all over the nation serving up some 20,000 pounds of pork ribs, pulled pork, brisket and chicken. BBQ vendors include:

  • AZ Barbeque Catering
  • Big John's Texas BBQ
  • Big Ray's
  • Bourbon Jacks
  • Chandler BBQ Co.
  • Can't Stop Smokin'
  • Honey Bears BBQ
  • Joes Real BBQ- Gilbert
  • Montana Bar-BQ Co
  • Porkopolis
  • Q Up! BBQ
  • Raging Cajun Smoking BBQ
  • Rio Bravo BBQ
  • Ryno's BBQ
  • Sally's BBQ
  • Sweet Magnolia Smokehouse
  • Toms's BBQ
  • The Hillbilly Grill
  • The Hungry Monk
  • The Gym Grill and Bar
  • Up N Smoke BBQ
  • Waldo's BBQ

The Drink

AZ BBQ: Bar sponsors for the festival include Bourbon Jacks, Coach's Corner Grill, Dierks Bentley's Whiskey Row, Stadium Sports Grill, and Uncle Bear's Bar & Grill -- and they'll be spread out all over the festival at different locations.

GABBF: Look forward to the debut of SanTan Brewery's Mr. Pineapple Ale, as well as the SanTan Brewing Tailgater's Lawn. There will also be craft beer and whiskey from Bulleit Bourbon and Dickel Bourbon, which are both sponsors of the event.

The Entertainment

AZ BBQ: The Main Stage will host live concerts from Brad Perry, The Crown Kings, Back Porch Pickers, and more. But that's hardly all the event has to offer. There's also going to be International Wrestling Federation fights all day long; chef demos from local names including James Fox, Payton Curry, and Travis Nass; and the Redneck Area, where you'll find redneck-inspired competitions such as keg-rolling, watermelon seed-spitting contests, arm wrestling, lawn mower racing, and more.

GABBF: There will be two stages with live music at this festival. The Main Stage, located on the east lawn, will host performances from Blues Traveler (headliner), Craig Campbell, The Benson Band, Arizona's Georgia Chrome, and Nashville recording artist Laura Walsh. On the west lawn stage you'll find bands including Alien Ant Farm, 8 Versions of You, and Hot Box Academy. There will also be eating contests including brat eating, rib eating, wing eating, and pie eating.

The Price

AZ BBQ: General Admission: $12, VIP: $60/$75 at the gate, Kids 12 & under: free

GABBF: $8 presale at all Valley Bashas' locations, $10 presage online/at the gate, $125 presage (only 150 available)

The Venue

AZ BBQ: Salt River Fields in Scottsdale

GABBF: Historic Downtown Chandler

Our Assessment

So it seems both festivals will offer plenty of barbecue for even the hungriest of festival goers -- in fact, each will feature some of the same pit masters. Scottsdale's Arizona Barbecue Festival does have a leg up by offering a bacon-centric lineup of dishes, but it seems Chandler's Great American BBQ & Beer Festival will feature more family-friendly entertainment with country entertainers and appropriate-for-all-ages eating competitions. On the other hand, Arizona Barbecue Festival's Redneck Arena -- one of the event's highlighted draws -- will only be open to those over 18 and the plentiful bars, while fun for the adults, might be a little less friendly for families to navigate.

For more information about the events, check out the Great American BBQ & Beer Festival and Arizona Barbecue Festival websites.

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