Lexington, NC Barbecue Festival
25th Annual Year (October 2008)
Lexington, NC BBQ Festival
We’re looking forward to making our annual pilgrimage to the Lexington, North Carolina Barbecue Festival in October. This year (2008) is the 25th year for this fabulous street festival in the piedmont of North Carolina.
I can’t remember how many years we’ve gone to the BBQ festival in Lexington, NC, and I was out of the country for some of these past 25 years. We do, now, look forward to and plan for this great barbeque event. The Lexington festival is always near the end of October, so it’s part of my birthday tradition. My birthday is the 24th, and this year the Lexington BBQ festival falls on the 25th of October, or that’s the main day.
What is the Lexington Barbecue Festival?
The festival in Lexington is not a barbecue cooking competition. Those are neat too, but this is a small town street festival with a focus on the local style of barbeque (vinegar based sauce on pork). You don’t need to break out your smoker or know a smoking team to take part in the fun.
If you’re not familiar with Southern community festivals, they are a bit like county fairs. They generally don’t have the carnival rides but often have some small ones for the kids. Everyone in town and often lots of visitors get together and enjoy some outdoor fun with food, entertainment, and booths selling arts and crafts.
Lexington has one of the very best community festivals. The barbecue theme really makes it extra special. There are a lot of great North Carolina BBQ restaurants in Lexington, and they are competitive, but on festival day, they come together with a signature barbecue that reflects the flavor of the area. You can get a taste of Lexington barbecue and also can hunt out various restaurants and try some of the variations if you stay a few days.
I wouldn’t dare suggest any specific Lexington barbecue joints, because they’re all good. The festival sandwich will get you started, and then you can explore and try out the local variations. They have slightly different sauces and different styles of slaw and hush puppies. It’s fun to poke around and find new que joints.
Other Food at the Barbecue Festival
Even if you are not a barbecue fan, you will find great food at the Lexington festival. They have the typical carnival fare as well as local favorites. One always popular booth is the fried apple pies. You may have to stand in line a while if you come later in the day.
Entertainment in Lexington
They always have a lot of entertainment up and down the street at Lexington. You can see local musical groups and some nostalgia groups and usually a big name – most often country.
Smaller stages have magic shows and other events for the kids. There are usually storytellers and puppeteers. These are fun for the whole family.
Arts and Crafts
The Lexington Barbecue Festival is a fabulous place to do some Christmas shopping. They have loads of great local, regional and even national arts and crafts.
My favorite booth is the Tin Can Man. He makes airplanes and other neat stuff out of soda and beer cans. I bought one of his signed Busch airplanes which hangs in my office.
I also love the homemade food booths. They always have cheese ball mixes. They offer cheese samples, and you can find some great mixes to take home and mix up for the holidays. There are also loads of home canned barbecue sauces at the festival. I always stock up on some new ones every year.
Tips for the Lexington, NC BBQ Festival
One thing we’ve figured out is that this festival gets bigger every year. The 25th will probably set all kinds of new records.
With this in mind, arrive early. By noon, you can hardly stir things with a stick at the festival. You can cut down side streets and get a little break from the crowds, but it does get quite crowded as the day goes on.
Don’t even think about trying to park right in town. This is a small town. They have locations with shuttle buses. It’s only a buck or two to ride, and that’s the way to go. We always go to the Wal-Mart parking lot, but I’m not sure Wal-Mart is still there. It’s still called that though. Just check the site for details on the rides. The drivers are great, and the shuttles run real regular.
Consider taking a backpack. There are so many neat things you can buy, but it’s a pain to carry all those bags. A backpack works out great.
Is “The Barbecue Festival” Worth a Trip?
We’re only about a 45 minute drive from Lexington, but I’d say this barbecue festival is worth a weekend vacation. Do plan ahead though. Again, this is a small town. If you can’t get in at Lexington, try Winston-Salem, Greensboro, or even Charlotte. It’s kind of a haul from Charlotte but not too bad. There are lots of neat things to see and do in Charlotte, NC too.
If you decide to visit for the Barbecue Festival from out of town, do check out the Lexington Festival site and plan around that. They have loads of great information. You can also get in touch. Folks in North Carolina are friendly and helpful. That’s just the Southern way!