Every year the people of Clinton, Montana gather to dine on “Rocky Mountain Oysters” – or, bull testicles. The testicles, procured from the bulls slaughtered every year, are US Department of Agriculture-approved, and an entire festival has sprung up from to honor the delicacy. Each summer the festival holds events like a hairy chest contest and a bull chip throwing contest to the delight of its 10,000 visitors. For $5 you can get a sampler plate to test out the “Montana tendergroin” (of which 4,000 protein-rich pounds are consumed annually), before stopping by the Rocky Creek Lodge gift shop to buy souvenirs.
Frozen Dead Guy Days
25 years ago, Bredo Morstoel was a man with heart problems working as a parks and recreation director in Norway. When he died in 1989, his family decided to use cryopreservation to freeze his body in Nederland, Colorado, until the technology was available to bring him back. But the people of Nederland are not dwelling on the negative. Instead, the town has celebrated “Frozen Dead Guy Days” for 13 years, a festival that honors Morstoel. The festival also makes death a bit more cheery, with coffin races, frozen T-shirt contests, a hearse parade, and a tour of the Turf shed where Grandpa Bredo is still frozen. “Freeze the day!” is the motto of the celebration, which now draw in 12,000 each year. If you’re feeling daring you can take the “polar plunge,” and later go to the dance, “Grandpa’s Blue Ball.” Glacier Ice Cream made a flavor especially for the festival, named the Frozen Dead Guy, which you can enjoy while thinking of Grandpa Bredo.
National Hollerin’ Contest
The National Hollerin’ Contest is the perfect festival to wake up the sleepy town of Spivey’s Corner, population: 49. First held in 1969, the fair was established in North Carolina to revive the lost art of “hollerin’.” Each year on the third Sunday in June, 5,000 to 10,000 people show up to compete for the best holler. Hollerin’ is not a scream or a shout, but something that has been used in cultures all over the world for different reasons, and has come to be regarded as a cultural artifact. The Spivey’s Corner contest features distress hollers (for urgency), functional hollers (used on farms), and expressive hollers. Split into men’s and women’s divisions, participants can be local or form out-of-town, and winners have been featured on “The Tonight Show” and “The Late Show with David Letterman.” After the contest, or if your ears get sore, you can participate in a square dancing jamboree, watch the whistlin’ and lady callin’ contests, or watch the watermelon roll strength contest.
Mike the Headless Chicken Days
In 1945, a man in Fruita, Colorado, set out to behead chicken he called Mike for his dinner. Attempting to keep the neck intact since it was his mother-in-law’s favorite part, he took off the chickens head a bit further up than normal. The next day, he discovered the headless chicken still trying to peck for food without his mouth or face. Having failed to cut through Mike’s brain stem, the farmer fed Mike with an eye dropper and kept the chicken alive for another 18 months. The residents still celebrate Mike every third weekend in May with Mike the Headless Chicken Days festival. The events remember Mike’s will to live with a dark humor. You’ll see chicken recipe competitions, and can participate in the “Chicken Dance” contest. Or you can get really dark and run in the 5K, “Run Like a Headless Chicken Race.” We’re sure Mike would be honored.
Roswell UFO Festival
The desert town of Roswell, New Mexico has long been associated with the alien and paranormal. Claims that an alien spaceship crashed at a ranch near there in 1947 have resulted in a town with a Roswell Museum and Research Center, as well as the annual Roswell UFO Festival. The festival brings believers together for four days in July, where they participate in haunted houses, alien disc golf, and UFO-inspired music. For skeptics as well as scholarly believers, the festivals hosts guest speakers like Ben Hansen of the SyFy channel’s Fact or Faked: Paranormal Files to debate the existence and cover-ups of extra-terrestrials. You can tour the Roswell Museum and Research Center to see the myriad of books and newspaper articles written on the subject, and both you and your pets can take part in the Alien Costume Contest.
Cow Chip Throw and Festival
The people of Prairie du Sac, Wisconsin, throw a festival to honor one thing that was vital for survival by the pioneers: cow chips. Also known as, hardened cow dung. The chips were all that stood between the pioneers and a freezing death in tough winters. Cow chips were collected all year to burn in the winter, and even used for trading. Now on Labor Day weekend, Wisconsinites keep some of the reverence alive by throwing cow chips in a shot put-like competition called the Cow Chip Throw. The utility of the cow chip is celebrated with a parade that features the songs “Poop Scoop Boogie” and “Cow Pattie,” a Cow Chip 5K and 10K. Children can play games, like tossing sandbags into a cardboard cut-out of a cow’s backside. This festival has no problem laughing at itself – parade floats regularly feature constructed cows that fling out cow chips.
The Idiotarod – the key part of the word being “Idiot” and not to be confused with Alaska’s noble Iditarod race – will be celebrating 11 years this January. The race brings racers clad in elaborate costumes to New York City, where they race each other in creatively decorated shopping carts. The five-mile race consists of a starting and stopping point, with the team of five racers choosing the route themselves. Each team member must stay with the cart: one in the back “mush” position, and four in the front “sled dog” position. The Idiotarod website has a list of “Acceptable” and “Unacceptable” trickery. Funny, short-term trickery, such as setting up a fake roadblock, is accepted, while “chopping off the hands of the other team members so they can’t push their cart” is listed as unacceptable. Teams in the past have dressed up like mice with a cheese cart, superheroes, Smurfs, and tampons with a cart decorated to look like a Tampax box. There is no rain date, and prizes are awarded at the discretion of the judges, with the open acknowledgement that bribes will work.
Woolly Worm Festival
20,000 people, 140 vendors, and 1,000 worm trainers gather in Banner Elk, North Carolina to celebrate the Woolly Worm Festival each year. According to local lore, wooly worms were used in the area to predict the winter. But which worm should the people trust? The Woolly Worm Festival Association was formed to solve this problem 37 years ago, and resulted in an autumn event where woolly worms, and fuzzy caterpillars (known as banded woolly bears) race by the thousands. The winner, whose body has 13 segments to correspond with each week in winter, predicts the forecast based on the color of each of its segments. The lighter the color, the more mild the winter weeks will be. The fair offers doggie-daycare, and entering the race is only $5. The fair also offers handcrafted furniture and jewelry, live music, dance teams, and inflatable rides. And if your worm wins the race, you’ll both be immortalized on the festival website’s page of winners.
Pandemonious Potted Pork Festival, or “Spamarama”
From the town that first brought you Spam comes “Spamarama,” an event that pays homage to the infamous gelatinous-glazed meat in a can. The festival hosts some normal events each April, like a children’s circus and musical acts. But the main events take pleasure in their own absurdity. The Spamalympics use the canned meat in a variety of contests like the Spam Can Relay and the Spam Disco Shoot. Those who can stomach it participate in a Spamburger-eating contest, while others take place in a Spam cook-off where any recipe featuring Spam is fair game. The festival is kept alive by the nonprofit Keep Austin Weird, which is clearly doing its job well.
Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta
Onlookers gather in Albuquerque over nine days in early October to watch over 700 hot air balloons fill the sky. The first fiesta began in 1972, when a radio manager decided to see if he could get 19 balloons to gather in New Mexico, a very high number at the time. Now the event is highly organized, with spectators gathering at sunrise to see the Dawn Patrol balloons take off. The Mass Ascensions event launches balloons in two waves to fill the sky in waves as launch directors act as the “traffic cops” for safety. Albuquerque residents can watch the balloons from their backyards as they compete in competitions in speed, race, and dropping markers on targets. In years past, hot air balloons have been shaped as animals, a wagon coach, and a soda pop can. America’s Challenge Gas Balloon Race measures how far long-distance balloons can fly – some winners have gotten as far as Canada and the US East Coast.