Heading to the Heinz Field Kickoff and Rib Festival? Here’s a list of rib vendors, live music performances and everything to know before you go.
The longstanding Pittsburgh rib festival returns this weekend at Heinz Field after being canceled in 2020. With five days of music, entertainment and some of the best ribs in the country, you’re sure to leave satisfied.
Starting Thursday, Sept. 2, and running through Monday, Sept. 6, the event signals the beginning of Western PA’s favorite season – football season. Even if carefully crafted meats aren’t your thing, you’ll be sure to find something exciting at the free festival.
A history of Heinz Field Rib Fest
Like many classic Pittsburgh traditions, Rib Fest started out of a love of sports. To celebrate the Steelers’ season kickoff in 1990, the rib festival took place at Three Rivers Stadium. The inaugural event featured music, games and of course, a mouthwatering array of ribs. During its run at Three Rivers Stadium, the event occupied the circular perimeter of the sports arena.
When Three Rivers Stadium closed in 2001, the event moved to a parking lot next to the new Heinz Field. But Pittsburgh’s love of ribs couldn’t be contained, and the event continued to grow, at first closing down Art Rooney Ave. and now occupying over half of Heinz Field in its current iteration.
Pittsburgh Rib Fest @ Heinz Field details
The Heinz Field Kickoff and Rib Festival will take place on Labor Day weekend.
- 📍 Location: Heinz Field and Art Rooney Avenue
- 📅 Dates: Thursday, Sept. 2 to Monday, Sept. 6
- ⌚️ Time
- Thursday: 4 pm to 9 pm
- Saturday: Noon – 11 pm
- Sunday: 8 am – 11 pm
- Monday: Noon – 7 pm
- 🔗 Event Website
A guide to Heinz Field Kickoff and Rib Festival
Rib Fest isn’t just about the meats (but there will be 15 different rib vendors in attendance), it’s also a kickoff to Steelers and Pitt Panthers football season. The free event takes place along Art Rooney Avenue, but Heinz Field’s FedEx Great Hall will be open for visitors to check out Steelers Super Bowl trophies, Hall of Fame Museum, the new Terrible Towel Wall and more memorabilia.
Each day will feature a unique slate of games and activities for fans of all ages. Starting at noon and lasting until 11pm most days, guests can access Rib Fest events and concerts for free, and food and drink can be purchased on site. If you’re looking for admission to the Pitt game or the Steelers game, you’ll have to buy a ticket.
Musical Performances at Rib Fest
Rib Fest’s musical performances are as follows:
Friday, September 3, 2021
- 7:30 p.m. – The Sun King Warriors
- 9:00 p.m. – The Clarks
Saturday, September 4, 2021
- No live music. The Pitt Panthers are playing UMass at 4 pm. Tickets are required to attend the football game. (You can find tickets on StubHub starting at $17).
Sunday, September 5
- 4:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. – Happy Hour Street Party with DJ Steve Maffei Jr on Art Rooney Avenue
- 7:00 p.m. – Lady A & Carly Pearce at Stage AE Outdoors (* tickets required)
Monday, September 6
- 2:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. – The Jimmy Adler Band
- 4:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. – Norman Nardini
- 5:30 p.m. – Billy Price
Admission to the concerts at Heinz Field is free.
Rib Vendors @ Heinz Field Rib Fest
Last but not least are the rib vendors, including the winner of last year’s rib competition:
- Bad Azz BBQ (2018 People’s Choice Award)
- Big Boned Ribs (2018 Best Ribs 2nd Place)
- Carolina Rib King
- Cowboys BBQ & Rib Co.
- Fine Smoke
- Howling Coyote BBQ
- Jack On the Bone
- Johnson’s BBQ
- Off the Bone BBQ
- Old Carolina Barbecue Company (2018 Best Sauce)
- Pigfoot BBQ (2018 Best Ribs)
- Ribbins BBQ
- Smokin’ T’s BBQ
- Texas Pit Barbecue (2018 Best Ribs 3rd Place)
More information on Rib Fest vendors can be found on the event’s website.
A few spots to visit in the North Side
When you’ve had your fill of ribs and sports, check out some nearby North Side attractions and eateries previously featured in Very Local Pittsburgh.
- War Streets Brewery (902 Western Ave.)
- Allegheny City Brewing (507 Foreland St.)
- Roundabout Brewery Pop-up Beer Garden
Know before you go: Heinz Field Kickoff and Rib Festival
- Parking: Heinz Field has a comprehensive guide to parking near the stadiums, but if you’re up for a walk, we also recommend parking in the Rivers Casino or the lot at Nova Place. [Pgh pro tip: you can park on the street for free on Sundays. Park downtown and walk or take the T over to Heinz Field.]
- Transportation: The North Side and Allegheny T Stations are only a few minutes walk from Heinz Field, or you can bike down the North Shore trail.
- Bathrooms: The event will have bathrooms on site.
📸 Header image courtesy of heinzfield.com
This story was originally published in 2019 and has been updated for 2021.