Reno Tahoe // Flickr
Two men grill a rack of ribs for the Nugget Rib Festival on September 2, 2006 in Sparks, Nevada. Participants can eat food, shop at vendors and enjoy live music.

After living in Reno for the past four years, I can confidently tell you that the Nugget Rib Cook Off is a Reno staple. The rib festival takes place on Victorian Square in Sparks, and between the food, the live music and the shopping, there’s no better place to be at the end of summer.

The rib festival and cook off debuted in 1989, and since then the Cook Off has been one of the greatest events in Sparks, Nev. This festival is a bit of southern charm brought to northern Nevada where the residents can enjoy the best food.

The ribs are incredible, no matter the stand you buy them from. They’re the most tender and savory ribs you could ever eat. The meat falls off the bone, the barbeque sauce is sweet but smokey and the sides are even more delicious. The mac and cheese, coleslaw and baked beans come in mass supply, so eat up and enjoy.

Even if you’re not a fan of pork ribs, there are so many types of different food available to try. Anything you could ever imagine being deep fried, the best cornbread and even random things you’d never see up north like fried alligator are available all week long. One of my personal favorites is fried pickles and here I can try different fried pickles from different restaurants across the country.

Another positive about this festival is that it’s maintained and executed to perfection. There’s always security around, easy-to-find bathrooms and it’s not too hard to find parking. All of the normal festival deterrents are eliminated which makes this an easy-going and relaxing event.

The actual rib competition brings competitors from all across the country. Everyone wants a shot at having their ribs or barbeque sauce winning another award. Most of the booths that are featured are already award-winners in some other fashion, so you know you’re really getting the best quality in the country right here in Sparks.

One of the best parts of this event is that it’s free for spectators. You don’t have to pay anything to get into Victorian Square, which means you can enjoy the fun of the event even on a low budget, even if you’re a broke college student. You only pay for what you eat, so if you just want to walk around and enjoy the event, it’s completely free. This festival is always family-friendly, and is open to people of all ages.  

Even though this is a local’s best kept secret, people still travel to Reno/Sparks to experience all of the fun that happens at this festival. Late August is the perfect time of year to have this festival because the weather is perfect and everyone in town plans their entire weekend around going to the rib cook off. Everyone deserves to experience this festival at least once, so when August rolls around take the time to go experience Reno’s best-kept secret.


Jacey Gonzalez  can be reached at jaceygonzalez@sagebrush.unr.ed and on Twitter @NevadaSagebrush.