Throw a mullet across state lines, crown the king and queen of bologna, take a grumpy plunge, and celebrate a frozen dead guy—in America, there’s a festival for pretty much anything you can imagine. These seven festivals across the country are so bizarre you have to see them for yourself.
Editor’s Note: Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, some of the festivals listed are not taking place in 2021, or being held virtually/with reduced events. Check the festival’s website for more information before traveling.
Mattoon Bagelfest, Illinois
New York may claim bagel supremacy in America, but do they crown a Little Miss Bagelfest or Bagel Baby every year? They do not, and therefore bagel-lovers may want to consider Mattoon, Illinois for their next vacation—at least during July when the annual Mattoon Bagelfest is held.
When a bagel factory opened in Mattoon many years ago, the factory owner hosted a free bagel breakfast for the city. The residents loved it so much that the free breakfast evolved into an annual, multi-day festival celebrating bagels and community. You’ll come for the free bagels and stay for the Bagel Bow Wow dog contest (which includes awards for the best bagel costume, “good old dog”, and owner-pet look-alike).
Grumpy Old Men Festival, Minnesota
Wabasha, Minnesota has been grumpy (and proud of it) for the last 28 years after serving as the setting for the movie Grumpy Old Men. Every year since the filming, the town has hosted a Grumpy Old Men Festival, which features activities inspired by the movie—like ice fishing, golfing on snow, and even an ice shanty contest.
Yale Bologna Festival, Michigan
The small town of Yale, Michigan has a population of around 2,000 people—until bologna is involved. Over 20,000 people descend on Yale every July for the annual Yale Bologna Festival, a three-day celebration of the beloved lunchmeat that started in 1989.
In addition to plenty of bologna tasting opportunities (including fried bologna sandwiches and bologna hot dogs), the festival features a bologna-themed cardboard boat race, a crowning of the King and Queen of Bolognaville, and custom-built outhouse races.
Underwater Music Festival, Florida
At the Florida Keys’ Underwater Music Festival, you’ll find sandbars instead of drink-slinging bars, fins instead of high heels, and tanks of air instead of the other inhaled substances you might find at a typical concert.
At this annual under-the-sea event, ocean-themed songs are piped underwater using speakers suspended beneath boats to participants dressed in seaworthy swimming costumes. Hopefully, the local neighbors (the sealife) don’t complain about the noise, since the event is held to encourage coral reef preservation and environmentally responsible diving.
The Great Texas Mosquito Festival, Texas
While other places curse pesky mosquitoes, Clute, Texas has decided to celebrate the blood-sucking creatures with The Great Texas Mosquito Festival (we’re itchy just writing about it). This three-day festival has been an annual event since 1981, and the mascot, a 25-foot inflatable mosquito named Willie Man Chew, is the star of the show.
Try your luck at the mosquito calling competition, described as “open season for those pros that can call the largest, fastest, and most bloodsucking mosquitos around”, or put on your shortest shorts and enter the mosquito legs beauty contest.
The Flora-Bama Mullet Toss, Florida
There are a few things you need to know about the annual Flora-Bama Mullet Toss: It’s held on the state line between Florida and Alabama (hence the name) and a mullet is a type of fish (not just a bold hairstyle statement).
Each year, crowds pack the beach to watch contenders vie to throw their (dead) mullet the furthest across Florida and into Alabama.
In case you thought this event couldn’t get any more Florida, know that the tossed mullets are donated to Alligator Alley for food after the festival.
Frozen Dead Guy Days, Colorado
The Frozen Dead Guy Festival inspires a lot of questions—but the short story is, there’s been a dead body stored in dry ice in a shed in Nederland, Colorado for more than 30 years, and there’s a festival held every year to celebrate it (and restock the ice.) (Still confused? The long version of the story behind the festival can be found here.)
Festival events are what you’d expect for an event centered around a dead body: coffin racing, a parade of hearses, and snowy human foosball.
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