8 Of The Best And Truly Bizarre American Festivals

8 Of The Best (And Weirdest) Festivals In The USA

You’ve heard of Burning Man, you know Coachella, but what do you really know about American festivals? The USA is choc-full of year-round festive action, and there’s a whole lot more going on beyond the big-name events. We’re talking the unique ones, the weird ones, those small country town festivals with one-of-a-kind local traditions: like the New Orleans San Fermin Festival – the city’s roller derby-inspired take on the Running of the Bulls – or North Carolina’s National Hollerin’ Contest.

Today, in search of the true America, we’re taking a weird and wonderful journey through some of the best and lesser-known alternatives of the US festival scene.

#1 The San Fermin Festival, New Orleans


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Europhiles would be well acquainted with the San Fermin festival as Spain’s annual red-and-white running fiesta, where visitors guzzle sangria as a horde of bulls take to the streets of Pamplona. Never ones to be upstaged in the festival stakes, New Orleans locals take their cue from the Spaniards each July with a San Fermin of their own. It has all the same red and white uniforms, beer in place of wine, and 400 Roller Derby girls instead of bulls – the Roller Bulls – who chase thousands of running masses through downtown N’Orleans armed with roller skates and plastic bats.

#2 National Hollerin’ Contest, North Carolina


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If a good ol’ fashioned yelling contest gets you going, look no further than this North Carolina showpiece. Held at Spivey’s Corner the second Saturday of every September, it’s all in the name: a festival squarely dedicated to the art of hollering (the main method of communication in rural North Carolina before the advent of the telephone). Folks have been busting out their hollerin’ here each year since 1969, with thousands still getting their annual yell on to keep the tradition alive.

#3 Roadkill Cookoff, West Virginia


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The oft-underappreciated American culinary delight gets its moment in the limelight every September at Marlinton’s Roadkill Cookoff, a one-day gastronomic fiesta where chefs face off to create all the delicacies you can stomach. (To be clear, no-one’s cooking with actual roadkill. Rather, they’re making dishes using animals that are often, well, struck down by motor vehicles). Expect local specialties like teriyaki-marinated bear, squirrel gravy and biscuits, deer sausages, and Busted Tailgate BBQ Macaroni and Cheese.

#4 Underwater Music Festival, Florida


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Coolest sub-aqueous festival on the planet? It just might be. Held the first Saturday after the Fourth of July weekend on Looe Key Reef, south of Big Pine Key in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, Florida’s Underwater Music Festival is a feast for the submerged senses. This 35-year old gathering – a fusion of diving, snorkelling, music and environmentalism – features participants in wild mermaid and sea-style costumes rocking out on idiosyncratic instruments like the ‘Trom-bonefish’ and ‘Sea Flute’ to a repertoire of ocean-based hits filtering through waterproof speakers (especially cool, given that sound travels nearly five times faster underwater).

#5 Lebowski Fest, Kentucky


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‘Dudeist Priests’ from all around the world unite each year at Louisville’s beloved annual Lebowski Fest: a three-day bash celebrating the cult awesomeness of Jeff Bridges’ ‘The Dude’ character in seminal 1998 film, The Big Lebowski. Cue: a weekend of unlimited bowling, White Russians, nihilists, faux espionage, a costume contest, and one great big rug to tie it all together. The dude most definitely abides.

#6 Groundhog Day, Pennsylvania


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You probably won’t see Bill Murray cruising the streets of Pennsylvania’s Punxsutawney the first week of Feb each year, but you will witness the town’s famed groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil, as it emerges from its burrow, bares its fur, and declares its forecast for the arrival of spring. A local tradition since 1887, thousands still gather at Gobblers Knob in the freezing cold for the hog’s big day, lapping up ample merriment, music and festive times aplenty.

#7 Frozen Dead Guy Days, Colorado


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This one probably gets the prize for strangest festival in the States: Frozen Dead Guys, a three-day fest held each March in the Colorado mountains to honour Bredo Morstoel, a cryogenically frozen Norwegian bloke housed in an ice shed above the town of Nederland (or, as locals fondly refer to it, “Frozen Dead Guy House”). Privileged attendees of Frozen Dead Guy Days get to take part in a range of bizarre ‘frigid merriment’, including coffin racing, costumed polar plunging, and frozen t-shirt contests.

#8 Punkin Chunkin, Illinois


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Halloween is a fun time and all, but what’s one to do with all those rotting pumpkins once November hits? Illinois’ Punkin Chunkin takes pumpkin destruction to entertaining new heights. After shifting across the state line from its birthplace in Delaware this year, the long-running and beloved event persists as the nation’s most prolific pumpkin obliteration festival, with participants launching their refuse Halloween gourds into the air via any means possible: air cannon, catapult, brute human strength, and beyond. Naturally, the farthest flung “punkin” wins the prize.

This article originally appeared on Junkee.

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(Lead image: Mark Gstohl / Flickr)