Windy City Smokeout is smokier than ever in 2022

Sat. August 6, 2022 12:00 AM
by Jerry Nunn

The biggest county music and barbeque festival in Chicago started back in 2013 and returned again in 2022. From August 4-7 this crowd favorite known as Windy City Smokeout took over the 25,000-square-foot parking lot outside the United Center. The Smokeout began small with a country music headliner Brett Eldridge and five BBQ vendors in a small parking lot owned by Tribune Real Estate Holdins, LLC.

The festival fans went wild over the parking lot party and 12,000 over three days. The organizers knew they had a hit on their hands and expanded to the new location with almost 15,000 attendees each day currently.

There was a hunger to try meats from around the nation while listening to a banjo play in the background. For some, it is a chance to return to their country roots and celebrate some southern style.

Windy City Smokeout has become an experience with vendor activations and libations to accompany entertainers ready to play. The lineup in 2022 is stellar with the iconic Willie Nelson bringing his family and a large catalog of hits on Thursday, Aug. 4 to 1901 W. Madison Street.

The 89-year-old braided weed smoker remained seated for most of his set full of hits. "Whiskey River" and "Always on My Mind" sounded as fresh in the outdoor setting and Nelson showed why he is always a pro at his shows. He ended with "I'll Fly Away" which was fitting as he had to get "On the Road Again" to play in Kentucky at the Ohio State Fair the following evening.

Other talent slated to play included Tim McGraw, Sam Hunt and Miranda Lambert. There was representation from the LGBTQ+ community with Lily Rose on Saturday afternoon at 4:20 p.m. Maybe Rose has experienced the benefits of cannabis just like Nelson, who continues to thrive in 2022.

The secret must be in the sauce with so many food vendors to pick from. Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises presents the Smokeout so it was no surprise to see Bub City come back with its classic brisket. The kitchen ran out of the BBQ pork nachos before the first night was over.

Supply and demand were the weak links to many of the various restaurants over the weekend. Why only the bread of Martin's Bar-B-Que Joint around? The ravenous crowd was hungry for a full menu of their delicious Nashville offerings, not just their buns.

Smoke Queen Barbeque from California not only had the best name around, but the brisket had a crispiness to it that demanded repeat tastings. The non-profit organization called Operation BBQ Relief gave funds for tornado relief while serving up pulled pork sliders to patrons each day. Now that is putting your money where your mouth is!

Photo opportunities were in every nook and corner with companies such as Cresco Labs, a cannabis business, and Geico insurance with giveaways. The people-watching never gets old every year at this festival and is worth the cost of admission alone. It's a yearly opportunity to dress up in your best cow person outfit and dance in your boots to the beat of your own drum!

Snatch up what is left of the tickets at before this festival disappears in a cloud of smoke!