Photograph by Joel Sartore, National Geographic
East Coast Kinetic Sculpture Race
One of the world's more unusual races involves kinetic sculptures, attractive works of art that must also be human-powered and amphibious in order to compete on a 15-mile course along the shores of Baltimore’s Inner Harbor and into the Chesapeake Bay. The race has been run every May for 13 years, backed by the American Visionary Art Museum, where such sculptures are on display year-round.
It's not a typo, it's a shopping cart race. More specifically, it's a series of shopping cart races—held in North American cities from Asheville to Vancouver—in which teams of costumed idiots use trickery and guile (such as they possess) to speed their creative contraptions through city streets.
The Wayne Chicken Show
This Nebraska festival was hatched (sorry) in 1981 and has grown into an enormous, lighthearted celebration of all things chicken. It begins with All Hen's Eve (Henoween) and includes chicken humor, chicken games, chicken costumes, chicken dancing, and, naturally, a chicken dinner.
The Honobia Bigfoot Festival and Conference
The legend lives in southeastern Oklahoma, and each October the faithful gather to browse all manner of Bigfoot art, jam to the Big Foot Boogie Band, and hear fireside tales from those who've experienced a sighting. Admission to the full festival is free. Serious “scholars” who hope to attend conference lectures must pay an extra fee.
Wisconsin State Cow Chip Throw
Sauk Prairie, Wisconsin
Honor the cows that feed Wisconsin's dairy industry with a celebration of the humble cow chip, held each September. Watch the pageantry at the Tournament of the Chips Parade and see competitors vie for the state cow chip toss record—currently an astounding 248 feet.
Humungus Fungus Fest
Crystal Falls, Michigan
This festival was born with the discovery of a single fungus near Crystal Falls, Michigan. It’s one of the world's largest living organisms, spreading out over some 37 acres during the past 1,500 or so years. Now an annual August event pays tribute to the massive mushroom with all manner of festivities—including the creation of a room-size mushroom pizza.
Tarantula Awareness Festival
Coarsegold's Gold Rush heyday is long past, but the town bustles during this celebration of arachnid-inspired poems, music, crafts, and events—including a hairy legs contest, a tarantula hat dance, and a tarantula derby. With spider-friendly Halloween just around the corner, the October festival also features trick-or-treating and pumpkin decorating.
Attention all hillbillies, authentic and aspiring: Gather up Jethro and kin and head for Pikeville's Hillbilly Days festival. Three days in April are set aside to celebrate Appalachian culture with a cornhole tournament, quilt show, hillbilly music and vittles, and traditional crafts. This hillbilly haven also exists to raise funds for a great cause—the Shriners Hospitals for Children.
National Lentil Festival
The lentil may be a humble legume, but it's loved all over the world. The Palouse region of eastern Washington and northern Idaho is a lentil farm hotbed. Pullman’s lentil fest is an appropriate home for all manner of lentil-inspired cuisine—and offers up free samples from the World's Largest Bowl of Lentil Chili.
Lower Keys Underwater Music Festival
Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary
Handel never saw this kind of “water music” coming, but each summer in the Florida Keys, selections ranging from “Yellow Submarine” to humpback whale songs are piped underwater for an unforgettable acoustic experience. Hundreds of divers and snorkelers tune in on a beautiful coral reef in the National Marine Sanctuary, where celebrity attendees like the Snorkeling Elvises are a traditional part of the scene.
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