No surprise, lovely summer weather plus more first-rate meat than you could possibly eat equaled huge happy crowds yesterday at the 12th annual Big Apple Barbecue Block Party in and around Madison Square Park. And it's all happening again today! Seventeen pitmasters from places like Texas, Mississippi, the Carolinas, Tennessee, Illinois, and Brooklyn (represent!), will be serving their regional specials for $9 a plate to tens of thousands of people.

Here are some thoughts from Day One...

Go for the ribs. Everything is great at the Big Apple Barbecue, but all of the ribs I had—from 17th Street Bar and Grill, from Baker's Ribs, and, especially, from Pappy's Smokehouse—were particularly exceptional.

Skip the longest lines. True, there are worse things you could be doing than standing outside on a nice day bullshitting with your buddies, but still... the difference in degree of awesomeness between the booths with insane lines (like, at least an hour) and the ones with more manageable waits (just a few minutes), especially among all of the sandwiches on offer, isn't worth the time you lose waiting rather than eating.

The new-this-year $265 BigPiggin VIP pass is a waste. The couches may be comfy on that uncrowded rich-people lawn, and the drinks may be free, but do you really want to go to the best barbecue festival in town and eat catered buffet food from Union Square Events? Didn't think so!

Go early! If you plan on heading to Madison Square Park today, get up and leave your house now. Lines at the most popular stands start forming an hour before the 11:00 start, and the most popular spots—Ed Mitchell's Que (which is delicious North Carolina-style BBQ), for example—sell out by mid-afternoon.

All of the above will be true next year, too. So, if instead of eating meat all weekend, you went to Governors Ball, or Figment, or Fort Tilden, or stayed inside and binge-watched season two of Orange Is the New Black, the pitmasters will be back next June.