I LOVE TO TRAVEL. Really. It’s one of my favorite things in the whole wide world!
I also love the obscure and bizarre things about life. How can one combine a passion for quirkiness and wanderlust?
By compiling a list of local festivals from around the United States, of course!
I have spent the day brainstorming, internet searching, and giggling. The result is a list of approximately 50 local celebrations that are the product of American creativity and desire to gorge.
Because the list is really, really long, I’ve decided to break it into several posts, along with the top reasons why you should consider making travel arrangements around the festivals of the U.S. (And you know that’s a stretch for me because local gatherings and I typically don’t mesh well. But I’ve decided if you’re a tourist at the local gathering, fun abounds!)
I’ll also post the bare bones of information for every festival so you have a handy-dandy list of places to visit… and you know this is the bucket list you need to complete!
First two reasons you should attend a local gathering:
1. A festival is full of things to watch, learn, and do. If you’re willing to travel out of your region, there’s no doubt you’re going to expand your horizons. Just the people-watching could be fun. But then there are the bouncy houses, face painting, and local food. What’s not to love?
2. Survival-related team building. If you can stagger your way out of a minimum of five small town gatherings with someone, you’ve created a foundation of memories that will last a lifetime. As my cousin says when things go wrong, “That’s what memories are made of!” The off-kilter is what makes for phenomenal experiences!
And now, for the first ten fantastic festivals to put on your calendar…
1. Crawdad & Shrimp Festival, Camp Verde, AZ. I bet you thought Arizona was full of rattlesnakes and dust bunnies. You Are Wrong. Do you know what a crawdad is? It’s a mutant version of a shrimp. They have them in Camp Verde, which means they have watering holes. And crawdad are edible. Just ask at the festival, where for $5 you can enjoy steaming crawdads and shrimp served with red taters and roasted sweet corn, live entertainment, crawdad races, vendors, games for the kids, burgers on the grill and a beer garden.
2. Slugburger Festival, Corinth, MS. When I saw “slugburger,” I vomited a little in my mouth, imagining biting into slimy slug meat. Imagine my joy to discover the ingredients of a slugburger are soybean meal mixed with a small amount of beef! It’s almost a vegetarians delight festival!
3. Bob Wills Day, Turkey, TX. I have a special fondness in my heart for this one, because my family lives in Turkey, TX, the town PETA approached at Thanksgiving, asking if they would ban turkey-eating for the holiday. They would donate tofurkey for everyone in the town if the townspeople would change their name to Tofurkey, TX for the day. As the town economy survives on ranching, Turkey, Texans weren’t obliged.
They also know how to party up a storm and every year sponsor Bob Wills Day. It’s a grand time with miles of RV’s all in a row, good food, and fun memories. Check it out!
4. The Kudzo Festival, Holly Springs, MS. Every time I visit the southeastern U.S. I admire the kudzo lining the interstates. Turns out not everyone loves kudzo, the ivy-like plant that thrives and takes over the world. The good folks in Holly Springs, MS were looking for a festival and decided to go with kudzo because, “it was a name for everyone… kudzu bothers everybody everywhere. Everyone could relate to it.” Get your Kudzo love-hat on and visit!
5. Mosquito Festival, Clute, TX. I don’t know about you, but I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of celebrating a blood-sucking insect known for spreading malaria. (NOT)
Along with a carnival and nightly concerts, the Mosquito Festival includes competitions such as the “Mosquito Chase” 5K run, a Mosquito Legs Contest (for humans with skinny legs), and a Mosquito Calling Contest. It is still not clear how, or especially why, anyone would try to call mosquitoes. But maybe Will Man-Chew, the 26-foot-tall mosquito mascot, knows. You’ll have to go ask him.
6. World Cow Chip Throwing Championship, Beaver, Okla. This is one to be seriously proud of. A festival dedicated to flinging poop. Cow chip is not the same as “chocolate chip,” despite the color similarities and use of the word “chip.” Cow chips are (preferably dried) pieces of cattle manure. The highlight of the festival? Throwing the roughly disc-shaped patties, and the farthest toss wins the prize. Current record is 150 feet. That’s a well-pitched poop.
7. Typewriter Toss, Springfield, MO. One year I road tripped through Springfield. While I was getting ready in at the hotel I had the t.v. on – it was a religious children’s show about the danger of compromise. I was scared and vowed never to return to Springfield. (Several years later I realized Springfield was near Branson and home to Lambert’s, Home of the Throwed Rolls, and I compromised. That show didn’t teach me anything.)
That story has nothing to do with the Typewriter Toss, which is timed to coincide with Secretary’s Day each year. People launch typewriters, trying to hit the bulls-eye 50 feet away. Good times.
8. Husband-Calling Competition, Brown County, SD. Really, South Dakota? Is this a leftover from the days of the blizzards when your husbands had to head out to the barn with a rope tied around their waists and you had to holler them back in?! You know I love South Dakota, but the whole point of this festival is wives being judged on the creativity and effectiveness of their calls, with bonus points given if the husband actually responds.
9. Garlic Festival, Gilroy, CA. Garlic is one of my favorite edibles. Really. But a whole festival of garlic with the accompanying food? That is a festival crying for help from Tums. They host a “garlic showdown,” which gives me visions of combatants circling one another with garlic presses and tiny slingshots, hoping to nail their adversary with a garlic shot to the eye! I’ve heard it’s fun, though!
10. Pickle Fest, Atkins, AR. The biggest employer in the small town is a pickle factory. I also saw on 19 Kids and Counting the Duggars go through gallons jars of pickles every month. Maybe it’s an Arkansas thing? Home of the original deep-fried pickle and the pickle juice drinking contest, this is a festival where sour pusses are welcome.
There you have it, the first edition of zany U.S. festivals to add to your must-see list!
What crazy festivals do you know about?