Fantastic Festivals, Part 5

Scott Wiseman / Zozobra

We’ve made it to the final installment of Fantastic Festivals, bringing our total up to 50 of the strangest local festivals in the United States.


That’s American creativity for you!


10 Festivals for Finicky Families:


1. Spam Jam, Waikiki, HI. I feel like I don’t have to say much more than SPAM! to acknowledge the strangeness of this meaty by-product, but, you know me, words dribble out of my fingers of their own volition when I have a laptop in front of me. Hawaiians consume more Spam (a registered trademark by Hormel Foods) than in other parts of the country. Citizens of Waikiki are particularly proud of this claim to fame. Their annual festival includes a competition to be crowned as Mr. or Ms. Spam for the year.


2. Harvest Grape Stomp, Santa Rosa, CA. Fascinated by the idea of grapes squishing between your toes with moist, intoxicated intent? The Harvest Grape Stomp is for you. Stomp-goers get to take home a keepsake t-shirt! Woo-wee! (As an aside, did you know the tarantella, a musical style, was inspired by spiders in a grape stomp? The frantic music mimics the reaction of a barefoot stomper trying to survive the attack of an arachnid.)


3. Salley Chitlin’ Strut, Salley, SC. Come and get ’em! If you head over to “the strut,” you can find chitlin’ or chitterlings. Not sure what that is? Fried hog intestines, ole’ southern fare. Attendees of the strut show off their skills in both preparing chitlin’ and eating them, then dancings about with them and living to tell the story.


4. Texas Onion Fest, Weslaco, TX.  Don’t you wish you had the creativity and know-how to create your own onion? The folks in Weslaco have that covered. The Texas Onion Fest, which salutes the Texas 1015 Onion developed  in Weslaco, features an onion-eating contest, musical entertainment, dancing horse shows, arts & crafts, car show, children’s events, farmer’s market, an onion recipe contest, culinary stage, and kiddie rides. I bet it smells good there, too.


5. Zozobra, Santa Fe, NM. Take a bit of Judaism, mix in a dash of Catholicism, add a generous heaping of Native American mysticism and you come up with Zozobra, the major event in Santa Fe each year. When it’s all said and done you have a festival filled with highly intoxicated attendees, a 50-foot tall effigy, and a community scapegoat each year.

Zozobra is a hideous but harmless fifty-foot bogeyman marionette. He is a toothless, empty-headed facade. He has no guts and doesn’t have a leg to stand on. He is full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. He never wins. He moans and groans, rolls his eyes and twists his head. His mouth gapes and chomps. His arms flail about in frustration. Every year we do him in. We string him up and burn him down in ablaze of fireworks. At last, he is gone, taking with him all our troubles for another whole year. Santa Fe celebrates another victory. Viva la Fiesta! – A.W. Denninger

I’ve been. It scared me, I’m not going to lie. But it’s definitely a one of a kind experience.


6. Gizzard Fest, Potterville, MI. Michigan may be known for its mittens but the gizzards there are beyond compare. At least that’s what they think at the Gizzard Fest! There’s a magic show there, which for me is a necessary component of wrapping my chompers around a gizzard. The only way that’s going to happen is if I visit a hypnotist or a magician. But to each their own and may the best gizzard win.


7. Fourth Avenue Street Fair, Tucson, AZ. The Fourth Avenue Street Fair isn’t terribly strange. In fact, I attended several times when I was a younger version of myself. But, I have to add it because it’s an awesome little gathering and the location where a man accused my mother of infidelity and lived to tell the story. When I introduced my sister as my sister to our artsy vendor, he took a second glance at us and declared we might have the same mom but she’d had different milkmen. Made an impression.


8. UFO Festival, Roswell, NM. In 1947, Roswell, was the site of the most famous alleged UFO sighting in history. Today, Roswell hosts an annual summer festival dedicated to all things alien, including lectures and documentaries about everything from space craft sightings to alleged alien abductions. The 2008 festival even featured alien-focused music and poetry! This year they’re having a costume contest! There are fees charged for some of the events, but you can probably get them waived if you can prove you were born on another planet.


9. Empire Asparagus Festival, Empire, MI. Just yesterday I learned asparagus changes the consistency of a person’s urine, the root cause of the color variations and strange scent. But get this — only a handful of the population has the super-scenting gene needed to recognize the change of odor! Who knew?! I am a super-scenter, so I’d have to be pretty cautious about visiting the port-a-potties at this festival, but I’m also a grand fan of asparagus. So are the students at the College of William & Mary, who made an attempt to make a stalk of asparagus the university mascot in 2009.


10. Colby Cheese Days, Colby, WI. Any large group of people who will wear slices of cheese on their heads and watch football when the temperatures are Siberian-worthy are questionable. But, I have on good authority the tractor pull, cheese curds, and overwhelming dairy-ness of Colby Cheese Days are hard to resist. The fact their web address is “chariot of cheese,” well, I don’t know what to say about that.


After all this, there is no excuse for you to say you’re bored or have nothing to do. Festivals abound! Now, go find some more!


Don’t miss the other parts of this series:

Fantastic Festivals, Part 1

Fantastic Festivals, Part 2

Fantastic Festivals, Part 3

Fantastic Festivals, Part 4

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