The Nugget in Sparks may no longer belong to the Ascuaga family, but that doesn’t mean an end to the resort and casino’s special events.
Its biggest one, The Best in the West Nugget Rib Cook-Off, is celebrating its 26th year this weekend. More than 500,000 people are expected to roam Victorian Square through Labor Day, consuming up to 250,000 pounds of ribs prepared by 24 rib cookers from around the world.
Last year’s winner Famous Dave’s BBQ of Plymouth, Minn., has carried the trophy to other competitions and is using it for bragging rights. New to the Nugget event this year are Oregon’s Hole in the Wall BBQ and Mississippi’s Yazoo’s BBQ.
One of the biggest draws is the free entertainment, with various bands such as Keyser Soze, Delta Cats and Yo Mama playing on the West End Stage. Groups will perform from 11 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Friday through Sunday and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday. Familiar names take the main stage at 7 p.m.
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Joan Osborne on Friday will likely perform her ’90s hit “One of Us” as well as songs from her more recent recordings, 2012’s “Bring It on Home” and 2014’s “Love & Hate.” Joe Diffie makes Saturday a country night, with titles such as “Prop Me Up Beside the Jukebox (If I Die).” Sunday belongs to classic rock with the oft-changing but still going Jefferson Starship. And guitarist Robert Randolph brings his Family Band to the square at 3 p.m. Monday.
The cook-off runs from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday through Sunday. It’ll turn off the flames by 5 p.m. Monday, the day when heavy Reno-Sparks traffic is made even heavier by the influx of Burning Man attendees who have made the cook-off a popular destination.
Parking can be a nightmare, so go past the Nugget Interstate 80 exit to the Sparks Boulevard exit. Stop at the Legends shopping center and take the free shuttle (pickup between Fuddruckers and Popeye’s; 5-10 p.m. Friday, 3 p.m. to 1 a.m. Friday, and 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. Sunday; no service Monday). Admission and parking are free; learn more at janugget.com.
Meanwhile, Charlie Wilson and Brian McKnight perform Friday at Thunder Valley. The two easy-on-the-ears singers are set to serve up an evening of classic R&B ($39.75, $49.75, $64.75, $77.75, $89.75; thundervalleyresort.com).
Also on tap: The Hitmakers with Rico Puno and Marco Silon at Cache Creek on Saturday and Sunday (8 p.m.; $65, $75, $89; cachecreek.com); and Survivor, rejoined by Jim Jamison and Dave Bickler, Friday at the Grand Sierra (9 p.m.; $15, $25, $35; grandsierraresort.com).