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  • Writer's pictureCamp Nisswa

Nisswa Fall Festival & Smokin' Hot BBQ Challenge (2023): A Fall Tradition

Updated: Sep 21, 2023

Fall in Nisswa, Minnesota is a time for celebration, and what better way to revel in the season than at the Nisswa Fall Festival & Smokin' Hot BBQ Challenge? This annual event, which takes place on the third Saturday of September, is a cherished tradition in the area and the state of Minnesota. This year, the festival was held on September 16, 2023 and it's the "unofficial" kickoff to the fall season (fall officially starts September 23, 2023) in the lakes area. Note: The date for next year is September 21, 2024

The Nisswa Fall Festival & Smokin' Hot BBQ Challenge offers a full day of activities for all ages, making it a must-visit event for families and BBQ enthusiasts alike. From a delicious pancake breakfast to a medallion hunt, bean bag tournament, KIDZONE for the little ones, Fall Artisan & Crafters Market, live music, and more; there's something for everyone. In this blog, we'll focus on the Smokin' Hot BBQ Challenge, the crown jewel of the festival.

Our journey with this event began about seven years ago, and we've been hooked ever since. If you have a penchant for mouthwatering ribs, crisp fall weather, live music, and the charm of Nisswa, this event is tailor-made for you. The Smokin' Hot BBQ Challenge steals the spotlight, featuring teams from across the state and the Midwest competing to claim the title of the best ribs. Expert judges meticulously evaluate the ribs, but what sets this competition apart is that the public also has the opportunity to vote for their favorite ribs.

This fantastic event is hosted by the Nisswa Chamber, in collaboration with other sponsors, and it takes place in the heart of downtown Nisswa, occupying the Pickle Factory Parking Lot and the Turtle Race Track parking lot. Regardless of your preferred style of BBQ ribs, you're bound to find it here. This year, an impressive 18 teams participated in the challenge, with Nisswa's own Schaefer's Foods supplying the ribs. To put things into perspective, they provided a whopping 480 racks, and one team, Bailey's Acres BBQ, smoked a staggering 54 racks. Some teams went even further if they had the space and extra help. It's a mesmerizing sight and aroma when you arrive and see all the smokers in action.

Now, the burning question: How can you get your hands on those scrumptious ribs? The Nisswa Chamber starts selling VIP tickets a few weeks prior to the event, and we strongly recommend snagging these tickets. VIP ticket holders get a head start, receiving their ribs 30 minutes before the general public, along with access to a cozy VIP tent. Each VIP ticket provides seven tickets for seven ribs, with each ticket redeemable for a rib. Not only that, but you'll also savor delightful sides from Main Street Ale House and enjoy access to a VIP bar. This year, the VIP ticket cost was $60, an investment well worth making for a truly premium experience.

If you miss out on VIP tickets, don't fret. You can still enjoy the event by arriving early on Saturday to purchase public rib tickets. Be sure to get there promptly as these tickets are in high demand and tend to sell out quickly. Public rib tickets go on sale at 2:00 pm and are priced at $3 per rib or 2 for $5.

Nisswa Fall Festival & Smokin' Hot BBQ Challenge 2023 in Nisswa, MN | September

The real excitement kicks off at 4:00 pm when the judges start their evaluation of the ribs. VIP ticket holders can begin lining up at 4:15 pm to claim their ribs, while the general public gets their turn at 4:45 pm.

This year's winners were:

  • 1st Place: 2 Jerks & a Mouthful

  • 2nd Place: Shack's 6 Pack BBQ

  • 3rd Place: Brad n Bryan's Que

  • People's Choice: Bone Island BBQ

  • VIP Choice: Bone Island BBQ

Nisswa Fall Festival & Smokin' Hot BBQ Challenge 2023 in Nisswa, MN | September

The Nisswa Fall Festival & Smokin' Hot BBQ Challenge is the perfect way to celebrate the fall season with friends and family. With something for everyone and ribs that are simply out of this world, it's an event you won't want to miss. Here are some insider tips to make the most of your Nisswa Fall Festival & Smokin' Hot BBQ Challenge experience: Arrive early to beat the crowds and secure a good parking spot. Be prepared for unpredictable Minnesota weather in September. Consider getting VIP tickets for a premium experience. Support local businesses in the area, some of which stay open later for the event. Bring cash, as not all vendors may accept credit cards, and it speeds up transactions. Be ready to wait in line for those mouthwatering ribs Don't forget to cast your vote for your favorite ribs in the Smokin' Hot BBQ Challenge! The Nisswa Fall Festival & Smokin' Hot BBQ Challenge is a fun and family-friendly event that's sure to please everyone. Mark your calendars for the third Saturday of September (September 21st, 2024) and head to Nisswa for a day of fall fun! To get a taste of the excitement, please enjoy our photo gallery from this year's Smokin' Hot BBQ Challenge.


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