Philadelphia may not be the first place that comes to mind for good barbecue, but that didn't stop dozens of enthusiasts from gathering at Citizens Bank Park on Saturday for Philly's BBQ Fest 2016.
The festival, which included more than 40 vendors with samples of everything from classic pulled pork sandwiches to BBQ pierogi, also featured a rib-eating competition, cooking demonstrations, and a visit from former Phillies manager Charlie Manuel.
Vendors and festivalgoers alike said Philadelphia's barbecue scene is on its way up.
"To the people who say you can't get good barbecue in Philly - 10 or 15 years ago, they would've been right," said Smokerhead BBQ founder Mitch Csandi, 34, of Northampton Township, Bucks County. "But now, I think you definitely can."
Katrina White, 24, of North Philly, called herself a "huge barbecue fan," which was partly why she volunteered Saturday at a booth for Fat Jack BBQ, founded in Vineland, Cumberland County, in 1993. She said that while she wishes barbecue were a bigger deal in the city, she appreciates that "it's definitely growing."
Other vendors included local groups such as Philly Blind Pig and national chains like the Texas-based Dickey's Barbecue Pit. Dan Butler, 28, one of the owners of a Dickey's location in Limerick, Montgomery County, noted that when his store opened three years ago, it was the third location in the state. Now, he said, there are 15.
Kevin Pearce, 38, of Morristown, N.J., at the festival with vendor It's Butta Baby! BBQ, said he thinks the city has its own distinct barbecue style, but it's not given enough credit.
"Philly, and all these other parts of the country, are underestimated because they're not one of the more traditional locations like Texas, Memphis, or the Carolinas," he said.
Tickets for the festival ranged from $50 to $75; attendees could get samples from up to 20 vendors.
Attendee Luisa Vela, 25, a native of El Paso, Texas, in Philadelphia for a visit, said coming to the BBQ Fest made her "feel back at home."
"It's not quite the same," she said. "But I'd give it an A for effort."