While you’ll find no shortage of ethnic food festivals, craft beer shows and wine tasting events around the United States, sometimes it can be fun to do something a little out of the ordinary. For a bizarre yet delicious experience, attend these wacky food festivals around the country. Want to make your trip extra quirky? Add some of these roadside attractions to the itinerary, as well.
Waikiki Spam Jam
Who wouldn’t want to take part in a celebration dedicated to canned meats? Judging by the 20,000+ attendees each year, it seems like there are quite a bit of dedicated Spam-lovers out there. Visitors can enjoy Spam burgers and Spam fried rice, as well as purchase Spam T-shirts and watch Spam dancers and Spam theater productions. While the festival is a bit unusual, it actually has some historical significance, as during WWII meats were in short supply, forcing Hawaiians to grow a love for Spam. In fact, according to Waikiki Spam Jam, Hawaiians eat more Spam than anyone else in the world. The fun festival also helps those in need, as money from the event is donated to the Hawaii Food Bank. Don’t be upset if you missed the 2012 edition, as you can start planning a trip to Hawaii to coincide with the 2013 festival on Saturday, April 27. Additionally, you can follow Waikiki Spam Jam on Facebook and Twitter.Yuma Lettuce Days
Vegetarians and healthy eaters will love this festival, which celebrates locally grown produce and agriculture. Yuma Lettuce Days is an annual event that takes place each March, combining education, entertainment and a lot of vegetables. While the festival’s name makes it sound a bit bland, there are actually many exciting experiences to be found, like interactive salad bars, harvest dinners, wine and microbrew tastings, the world’s largest salad, a homegrown cooking contest, lettuce sculptures, cabbage bowling and more. You can attend next year’s festival from March 8 to 10, 2013.
This mushroom-centric festival features four full days of shroom-themed activities. Their mission is “to educate citizens, both visitor and local alike, about the many incredible aspects of the amazing world of mycology.” Attendees can immerse themselves in mushroom forages, fungal lectures, live music in Colorado’s San Juan Mountains and, of course, live cooking demos and mushroom-infused meals. Shroomfest is an annual tradition, and this year from August 16 to 19 will mark the event’s 32nd year.
Cheese Curd Festival
Ellsworth is the “cheese curd capital” of Wisconsin, so of course, it is only logical to hold their annual Cheese Curd Festival there. Celebrated every year since 1984, the festival boasts 6,000+ visitors each year. The focus of the event is the curd eating contest, where kids and adults race in heats to shove either a quarter or half pound of cheese curds down their throats. The prize? Ten dollars and a trophy. Attendees can also enjoy live music, fun runs, crafts, games and more. If you’re interested in indulging in some cheese curd goodness, the 25th annual Cheese Curd Festival will be held May 31 to June 3, 2013.
The International Rutabaga Curling World Championship
Ithaca, New York
The International Rutabaga Curling World Championship may sound bizarre, but it’s an annual tradition that marks the end of the market season in Ithaca. Attendees can see the offbeat sport as well as hear the melodic rutabaga choir. The town has been playing with rutabagas since 1996, although the first official Rutabaga Curl was in 1998. Moreover, around December when the event takes place, rutabagas are the only vegetable left in the market. And, nobody wants to eat them.
Turkey Testicle Festival
What started over 30 years ago as a joke has blossomed into one of the most traditional yet oddest festivals in the United States. The Turkey Testicle Festival is not a play on words, but actually cerebrates the nether region of the turkey. Around Thanksgiving each year, people flock to Parkside Pub to chow down on batter-fried turkey testicles while enjoying cold beers and live music. The event boasts 4,000+ attendees, as the pub makes over 1,000 pounds of turkey testicles each year. Moreover, the $10 admission charged at the door goes to helping local charities.
Raleigh, North Carolina
Put on by the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, BugFest is all about educating and fascinating. While there are presentations, roach races, Q&As, street fairs and exhibits, the “main course” of the event is Café Insecta, where visitors get their own taste of entomophagy. All dishes feature bug-infused recipes created by local chefs, so you’ll be helping the community while also heightening your sense of adventure.
Marlinton, West Virginia
Before you start gagging, know you won’t be seeing any tire marks on your meal. This food festival focuses on wild game like deer, possum, squirrel, raccoon and other animals that are commonly squashed by cars. Some example entrees from past years include “Biscuits and Squirrel Gravy,” “Pulled BamBiTo under Saboogo,” “Deer on a Stick” and “Rigor Mortis Bear Stew.” The event takes place annually in September, with this year’s Roadkill Cook-Off being held on September 29, 2012. Some highlights will include a Possum Trot 5k, a welcome ceremony of Mr. and Mrs. West Virginia Roadkill (elected at a prior pageant), tasting and judging of roadkill recipes, harvest games, a dog show and more. Click here for the full schedule.
RC Cola And Moonpie Festival
Bell Buckle, Tennessee
The RC Cola and Moonpie Festival happens annually on the third Saturday in June. Here you’ll find a craft fair, 10-mile run, bluegrass music, and clog dancers, as well as quirkier fare like deep fried Moon Pies, the cutting of the world’s largest Moon Pie, parades featuring people dressed up as RC Colas and Moon Pies, a Moon Pie toss, a watermelon seed spitting contests, a “Moon Pie Song Contest” and an RC dash where runners balance a full soda can on their heads.
While Illinois celebrates turkey testicles, Montana honors the balls of the bull. Also known as “cowboy caviar,” attendees can order the delicacy fried, boiled, sauteed or even raw. Held at the Rock Creed Lodge, the Testicle Festival draws over 15,000 people and requires over 2.5 tons of bull balls for a weekend of bizarre food fare, as well as crazy partying and debauchery. Quirky happenings include a bull-chip throwing contest, wet T-shirt and hairy chest competitions and even a game of bingo that involves a bull defecating on the game card. If you end up drinking a little too much of the event’s signature beer, Bull Snort Brew, party-goers can camp at the lodge or take the free shuttle. You’ll have so much fun attending this event, you may leave drunkenly babbling their motto: “I had a ball at the Testicle Festival.”
[images via madmarv00, Visit Telluride, audreyjm529]