It occurred to me while writing about lawnmower races and water fights with fire hoses, some odd stuff goes on at local festivals. I’m not getting all judgy here – my own hometown boasts a “wife-carrying contest” on the Fourth of July, okay? Truth is, we celebrate some crazy stuff in the good old U.S. of A.
Take Banner Elk, N.C., for example. Every October they host the “Woolly Worm Festival.” First of all, wooly worms aren’t actually worms, they’re caterpillars. And apparently they’re also quite the athletes. Their prowess is demonstrated in worm races, where entrants set a worm on a string, and whichever one gets to the top first, wins. But it’s not just one race, it’s an entire day of heats leading up to the championship where the winning worm is declared the “official winter forecasting agent” (some people believe if the caterpillar is more black than brown, it’ll be a tough winter) and his or her owner takes home $1,000.
While the people of Banner Elk choose to celebrate their bugs, across the state in Raleigh, they’re eating them. Bugfest, held every September by the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, is an educational experience for the mind and the palate. After you’ve learned everything you ever wanted to know about bugs, come to the museum’s “Café Insecta” and savor the oddities cooked up by local businesses, like chocolate chirp ice cream, cricket moon pies and everybody’s favorite, superworm enchiladas.
If you haven’t lost your appetite by now, let’s talk about the Giant Omelette Celebration in Abbeville, La. Every November the folks in Abbeville get together to make a 5,000-egg omelette in a 12-foot skillet. That’s not so weird, I guess. It’s a little weird that they bless the eggs in an official omelette mass at the local Catholic church first. And once you’ve fed your concentration with a hearty (and holy) breakfast, you can try to back an antique tractor into an egg without breaking it. The person with the smallest crack in the egg wins.
Then there’s Baltimore’s Hampdenfest. At first glance, it’s a typical community festival with live music, activities for the kids, arts and crafts; you know the type. But throw toilet races in there and this festival is officially weird in my book. The list of official rules for this contest is shockingly long, but I’ll flush it out for you: you may have up to three pilots on a racer to “include at least one clean human defecation device.”
And last but not least on my weird festival radar, Frozen Dead Guy Days. This Nederland, Colo., festival is dedicated to Grandpa Bredo, a gentle outdoorsman who passed away from heart trouble in 1989. Oh, did I mention he’s also currently packed in dry ice in a shed in the Colorado hills? What better way to celebrate improvised cryonics than ice-turkey bowling? Or a frozen-salmon toss? Maybe a parade of hearses or a coffin race?
Suddenly lawnmower races and wife-carrying don’t sound so crazy.