America loves its festivals, and we host a lot of them every year. Some celebrate a particular place, while others honor a specific food or event. And then there are those that commemorate the unusual. Here are 10 weird and wacky festivals everyone should attend at least once in their lives.
In 1945, Fruita rancher Lloyd Olsen was beheading chickens for market when one rooster jumped up and started running around the yard. Though mostly headless, enough of the bird’s brain had been was left intact to sustain life. Olsen named the rooster Mike and for 18 months toured the fair circuit, displaying him at a quarter a peek. Since 1999, Mike’s bizarre legacy has been celebrated with the popular Mike the Headless Chicken Festival, traditionally held during the first weekend in June. Activities include a pancake breakfast, 5K run, live music, and a chicken wings and Peeps eating contest.
Marshmallow Fluff was invented in 1917 by Somerville’s own Archibald Query, who sold the delicious dessert spread door to door before selling the recipe to H. Allen Durkee and Fred L. Mower, who founded a manufacturing plant in nearby Lynn. Somerville’s annual What the Fluff? Festival, established in 2006 and held each September, celebrates the invention of Marshmallow Fluff with a variety of Fluff-related events, including a Fluff hairdo contest, Fluff cooking competition, Fluff musical chairs, and live music. Dieters have been warned.
The 1958 sci-fi classic The Blob made Steve McQueen a star (kinda). It also put tiny Phoenixville on the map, because several scenes were filmed in the bucolic town, including the famous one in which a crowd of people flee the Colonial Theater after the Blob runs amok. That scene and much more are celebrated each July during Blobfest, a family-fun three-day event for the monster kid in all of us. The re-enactment of The Blob scene where everyone runs out of the theater is among the most popular festival events; in fact, all 350 Run-out tickets for Blobfest 2023 sold out in just two minutes. There is also a short-film festival, live stage show, driving tour of the region, and street fair.
Raleigh, North Carolina
If six- and eight-legged creepy crawlies give you the willies, this festival is definitely not for you. Held each September at the North Carolina Museum of Natural History, Bugfest celebrates insects large and small with special exhibits, lectures by top entomologists (Latin for “bug experts”), bug-related craft activities for children, and the opportunity to enjoy a variety of dishes created by local restaurateurs in which mealworms, crickets, and other insects are a main ingredient.
Founded in 1976, the Twins Days Festival celebrates multiple births in all their forms with fun activities such as the Double Take parade, twins contests, twins talent show, twins volleyball tournament, Twingo Fun Bingo, and more. Twins, triplets, and other multiple-birth siblings from around the world descend on the aptly named Twinsburg each August to celebrate their uniqueness. Each Twins Days Festival has a special theme; the 2023 theme was pirates.
Children and family fun are the focus of this four-day festival, traditionally held the third full week in July. A popular highlight is the baby food eating contest in which pairs try to feed each other a jar of baby food while blindfolded – and like babies, contestants usually get more on themselves than in. There is also a kid’s expo and parade, karaoke contest, disc golf tournament, car show, arts and crafts show, and live music. The festival is BYOB (Bring Your Own Bib).
Everyone knows that Superman was born on Krypton, raised in Smallville, Kansas, and worked as a mild-mannered reporter in the bustling city of Metropolis. Like its comic-book namesake, Metropolis, Illinois loves the Man of Steel and celebrates his fight for truth, justice, and the American way with a three-day festival each June that draws more than 20,000 people. Activities include appearances by celebrities with a Superman connection, popular comic book artists, a costume contest, and panel discussions.
Austin is home to the largest urban bat population in the world – an estimated two million Mexican free-tailed bats, which reside beneath the Ann W. Richards Congress Avenue Bridge in the middle of downtown. Every evening, spring through fall, the bats fly out at sunset, and every September the city celebrates these winged wonders with a huge festival that includes live music, food vendors, a kids’ fun zone, arts and crafts – and a lot of bats.
Estes Park, Colorado
This festival, originally held in Nederland, Colorado, celebrates the frozen body of a Norwegian man named Bredo Morstoel, who died in 1989. An advocate of cryonics, Morstoel had his body packed in ice and shipped from Norway to Colorado, where he was placed in a vat of liquid nitrogen and stored in a shed on the family property. It is no longer legal in Colorado to store frozen bodies on private property, but Morstoel was grandfathered in, and is celebrated each March with a delightfully twisted event that includes a coffin race, polar plunge, frostbite fashion show, roaming freaks, and a Bands and Bloody Marys Sunday brunch. When you go, raise a toast to Mr. Morstoel – the frozen dead guy who made it all possible.
If you love fried chicken – and who doesn’t? – a visit to the World Chicken Festival should be at the top of your bucket list. Every September, thousands of people pour into London, Kentucky for a celebration of everything chicken – especially if it’s fried. Highlights include a Col. Harland Sanders look-alike contest, chicken trivia, hot wing eating contest, rooster tail mullet contest, cluckin’ struttin’ and crowin’ contest, family flock lookalike contest, lots of live music, and the world’s largest skillet. Measuring 10-feet, 6-inches in diameter, this stainless-steel behemoth holds 300 gallons of cooking oil and can fry 600 chicken quarters at a time.
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