Why Attend the NBBQA Conference in Louisville, Kentucky

Posted By: Vic Clevenger NBBQA Latest News,

It’s where I met life-long friends. Went to eat oysters with TV personalities. Helped pull and prepare pork butts alongside a legend. Had my picture taken with heroes as I walked the halls. Got to know award winners who were both humble and fun to be around. This was my very first NBBQA conference and because of this first-time experience, I can’t imagine missing another one.

Do you remember your very first conference? What keeps bringing you back year after year? What do you tell others as to why they should not only become members of the NBBQA but attend the conference? This year the conference will be held in Louisville, Kentucky, the home of the world-famous Kentucky Derby and you’re not going to want to miss it. So, over the next few months, I’ll lay out different aspects of this year’s conference which you can use to let others know why they should join us the first week of April. But today, here’s a quick overview to remind you of reasons you should attend this year.


When I attended my first conference, I didn’t know anyone personally. Sure, I’d heard of Craig Kimmel & Tuffy Stone but I wasn’t friends with them, like I am today. However, one encounter stands out to me above the others and it occurred during a buffet spread we enjoyed. My wife & I were in line getting a bite when we struck up a conversation with a couple who had been around the NBBQA for a while. From this conversation, we had our first friends and pretty much took every meal with Bonnie & Ruben Gomez. Every year since then I seek them out to get a hug from Bonnie and hear some stories from Ruben. It’s no wonder they received the 2017 NBBQA President’s Award.

Networking Opportunities

This business of BBQ is as diverse as the sauces used to enhance it, yet just like the sauces, there is always room for yours. If you’re a restaurant owner then you can discuss proteins with representatives from Certified Angus Beef, Prairie Fresh, Compart Family Farms and the National Turkey Federation. Looking to get your rub or sauce on the shelves of stores? Then there are folks here to help you and guide you in this. Are you a writer, radio or TV personality? In attendance are producers and others who have been where you are which you can exchange contact information. The networking opportunities at the national conference are endless, but you must be here to take advantage.

Educational Content

I recently took one of those strength finder tests which revealed to me I have “Learner” as one of my top five strengths. The brief explanation of this strength is “a great desire to learn and want to continuously improve.” If this isn’t me then I don’t know what is and for many who attend the NBBQA National Conference, it’s them as well. The educational content in the two days of sessions are delivered by experts who are not only experts in their field, but who also know BBQ. They can relate to the struggles and celebrations we each have in our fields which is unique in trade conferences.

Unique Experiences

How can we talk about the national conference and not mention the unique experiences we receive by being present? Walk the halls of the conference center and you can bump into the likes of Myron Mixon, Chris Lilly, or Billy Durney. Each will stop for a photo, autograph and perhaps even a chit-chat about BBQ. Where else can you run into the leaders of our industry in such an accessible way? World Champions like Brad Orrison of The Shed or Mark Lambert of Sweet Swine 'O Mine always have a moment to visit and answer your questions. Stop by the hotel lounge after a full day of conferencing and let your hair down a bit alongside TV personalities like Diva Q, Big Moe Cason or Craig Carter all of who have been on Food Network. This is just the tip of the iceberg of the unique experiences you’ll receive at the NBBQA national conference.

There is an unlimited amount of reasons why you should be at the national conference if you are in anyway interested in the business of BBQ. I’d be interested in your national conference stories over the years and will post them in the newsletter from time to time as we head to Louisville, April 1-4, 2020.