Experience 4: The Ocean State BBQ Festival – Providence, RI

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Rhode Island isn’t like many other places….


Among many other things, Rhode Island is known for its beautiful summers, fresh seafood, & beautiful people (if we’re being real here).


But what it’s not known for is an established bbq culture.

binge bbq grill, newport, RI


Of course, there are exceptions to the rule, but if you say the word “barbecue” to most people in Rhode Island, they’ll probably think of a cookout with family and friends, which isn’t how bbq is perceived in other parts of the country. Why? I’m not sure, but I’d say it’s because the seasons change drastically in Rhode Island. Winters get so cold that your car doors freeze and the summers are so humid that you want to take three showers a day! This inconsistency in weather probably contributes to why the bbq secene isn’t the most hardcore. 


In places like Texas for example, the word “barbecue” is more associated with the slow cooking, beer drinking, super high tech’ smoker type of bbq. It’s a serious sport and you don’t fuck with people’s barbecue game.


To me, The Ocean State BBQ festival marks the beginning of something that is new and exciting. Something that has the potential to eventually shift the culture and get people in the area excited about new things.

Galloway's Catering & Prepared Foods


I got to the Ocean State BBQ Festival and had no clue what to expect….


I was still recovering from one too many drinks from the night before, so the fact that I was about to eat tons of good bbq was heaven sent.


The first thing I noticed is that everyone was VERY friendly. I got a warm greeting as soon as I walked into the event and started looking for Andy who is the organizer of the Festival. Naturally, Andy was busy tending to the event, so I decided to take a look around.



Before shooting at events like this one, I like to walk around the area just to get and idea of exactly what and how much I would like to capture, and something interesting began to happen….


I started realizing that this wasn’t your regular ol’ bbq with a few grills from Lowe’s and good meats. No. These people had HUGE smokers, some made by hand, some built by family, some a result of a Kickstarter campaign. HUGE charcoal and wood grills, & meat that had been smoked for 12, 14, & even 24 hours straight! (hmm..  I suddenly wonder if any of it was aged)



To be honest, I underestimated the event. I quickly realized that there were a lot of good things around for me to capture. I took a look around and immediately said to myself…

“shit, this event is the real deal”.


After some wandering, I was able to find Andy Cutler, the event organizer. Andy was extremely friendly and a great personality for the event overall. He made sure I had everything I needed from food to drinks, to interesting people to capture and questions to ask. He was very helpful throughout my whole time there (Thank you Andy!).


I began to shoot and tried to get an interview from each of the vendors and participants. I came really close, but missed about 2 – 3 vendors (which I’m sorry about). Through these vendors, I learned sooo much. I can’t really find the right words to express how much I picked up about bbq in general. I’ve always imagined having a crazy bbq setup at home (once I actually have a home), so I soaked the information up.

Great Northern BBQ RI


I learned about the different types of smokers, the capacity they’re able to hold, and even how to tend to different ones. Some were more “set it and forget it”, some were tall, some were wide, some were built by hand, some were bought to cook specific meats, it was a lot.



This event was full of great people and made me look forward to the growing bbq culture in Rhode Island. For anyone reading this and wondering if they missed out, the short answer is yes. This event was very unique and you shouldn’t miss the next one, trust me. 

Thank you for checking out this experience. -Rouk