The famed Best in the West Nugget Rib Cook-Off is back in its 29th year to delight people’ palates with a festival of spicy and sweet ribs and good times. Kicking off on Wednesday, Aug. 30 in Victorian Square, the Rib Cook-Off is free and open to the public to come enjoy some of the 240,000 pounds of ribs that its 22 vendors are cooking up.
Regarded as the most prestigious rib cook-off in the country, BBQ teams in Sparks are not just competing for bragging rights but will be vying for the $14,500 cash on the table. Best in the West rib teams such as Rasta Joe’s and local favorites Carson City BBQ (with its physical location right down the street) will be bringing back their signature recipes as well as teams from the East Coast who’ve probably spent the last few days in-route with rib cookers, BBQ sauce recipes, and the meat that will win them the gold.
Along with six full days of rib-consuming, Rib Cook-Off attendees may also enjoy live music on the main stage starting every evening at 7 p.m. (except on Monday, September 4 when the show starts at 3 p.m.) Aug. 30-Sept. 4. Popular main acts include The Romantics, Night Ranger, Eric Paslay, A Flock of Seagulls, and Gin Blossoms.
“One of the things we’re most excited about this year is that we’ve really upgraded our live music,” says Nugget Casino Resort Marketing and Communications Coordinator Caddie Dufurrena. “I’m personally excited about the Gin Blossoms on Saturday night- I grew up listening to them at a pivotal time in my life,” she adds.
Over on the Plaza Stage (formerly referred to as the West End stage), fun tribute bands will be kicking off at 6 p.m. (except on Monday, Sep. 4 when the Ultimate Stones play at 1 p.m). Covering most genres of music, tribute acts include Bon Fire (featuring AC/DC covers), Shades of Twain, Boogie Nights, Country Artists (think Kenny Chesney), and Life in the Fastlane (songs of the Eagles).
Dufurrena adds that the Nugget will also be providing a huge shade tent that everyone will be able to fit under during the day in the hot sun. A kids’ activities area will also be set up on the corner of 14th Street and Victorian Avenue with exciting rides and games for kids of all ages.
Another benefit to rib aficionados is that it will increase the number of ticket sale lines this year so that people won’t have to wait as long to try ribs. “One of the issues we’ve had in the past is people waiting a long time for ribs, so this year we’ve increased the number of sale points for fast and easy service for everyone,” she says.
With all of the apartment development construction going on in Victorian Square right now, Rib Cook-Off attendees are encouraged to take advantage of the free shuttle service that will be doing pickups throughout the event from Sparks and Reno. The shuttles will run from Wednesday-Sunday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Monday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Pickups and drop offs will be at the Iron Horse Shopping Center at 535 E. Prater Way and at the Reno-Sparks Convention Center on the corner of Coliseum Way and Peckham Way in Reno.
A carefully-selected panel of judges which includes a mix of food critics, top culinary professionals, Sparks Mayor Geno Martini, and Sparks Fire Chief Chris Maples will be out there tasting the ribs as well, deciding on their favorites in a double-blind taste test.
Personally, this writer is excited for Rasta Joe’s ribs coming back with his Jamaican style flavorings (and maybe a little rum mixed into the sauce) who won first place in last year’s cook-off. Dufurrena leans towards the sweet variety of pork as well.
“I tend to go for the sweet ribs- I will be out there myself doing a little investigative reporting,” she says.
For more information about 2017 Best in the West Rib Cook-Off, visit www.nuggetribcookoff.com. For the first time, attendees can vote for their favorite rib cookers online through the website, submitting one vote per day. The winner of the People’s Choice Award will be announced on the Plaza Stage on Monday, Sept. 4 at 2 p.m.