7 of America's Quirkiest Food Festivals
A typical summer for the average American consists of a picnic or two, some time at the beach, and of course a carnival or a food festival—especially if you are from a small town. Usually the theme is based on that particular town's local produce or specialty, be it peaches, asparagus, gumbo or cheese curds. There are usually fireworks, parades, car shows, cook-offs, and maybe even a fashionable 10K race.
But some towns add a little spice, and yes, sometimes even a little (or big?) testicle. These are the quirkiest food festivals in America. So rev up your road trip engines, loosen your belt buckles, tuck a (paper) napkin in your collar and dig in!
1. Gizzard Festival: June 6-8, Potterville, MI
Let's kick things off with the Potterville Gizzard Festival, which is going on right now. Complete with all the traditional regalia of a fine food festival—a car show, a mud derby, some fireworks and a parade—there is also the annual gizzard eating contest at Joe's Potterville Inn. Not for the faint of stomach, contestants have to eat two pounds of gizzards as quickly as they can. Winners get bragging rights for the year, plus $100 in cold, hard cash. Whoever said one couldn't make a living eating chicken gizzards?
And what exactly is a chicken gizzard? A gizzard is a secondary stomach that can be found in both birds and reptiles. It aids in digestion by grinding food with ingested stones before returning the food to the primary stomach. Mmmm! Supposedly, it's a little like chewy chicken liver and, when lightly seasoned with a little salt and pepper, can be quite nice. If you live near Potterville and you're equal parts hungry and brave, grab a gizzard hat and head out there this weekend.
2. RC and MoonPie Festival: June 21, Bell Buckle, TN
You really can't get more Southern than a cold RC Cola and a freshly unwrapped MoonPie. Add a little BBQ into the mix and you have the Bell Buckle RC and MoonPie Festival. When a population of just over 400 swells to 15,000 for one weekend of the year you know it's gotta be good. And is it ever—they bake the world's largest MoonPie! Each year, the newly elected MoonPie King and Queen select a group of Knights for their round table. These Knights aid in the ceremonial cutting and distributing of free pieces of the world's largest MoonPie.
But the real draw of this festival is the "Synchronized Wading" extravaganza. Described as "dry humor on a wet stage," the Down Home Divas (led by First Lady Carla Webb) will perform "A Midsummer's Nightmare" this year. It will star Miss Moon Pie and feature special appearances by the Googoo cluster and a Coke. A cheeky twist on Shakespeare performed in a kiddie pool? Count me in! [Image courtesy of pulltight.]
3. Bologna: July 25-27, Yale, MI
Yale bologna is said to be some of the best in the world. A bit courser and more strongly seasoned than your typical Oscar Mayer slice, this bologna has been rumored to help people live to be 120 years old. (We couldn't find any 120-year-old bologna enthusiasts to confirm this.) Every year, in a single weekend, over a thousand pounds of bologna are served either fried in sandwiches, stuck between a bun as a hot dog or placed around a stick in ring form.
The Bologna Queen crown is quite prestigious in Yale. Contestants must declare their intention to run up to six weeks in advance and be willing to raise tens of thousands of dollars for charity. The lucky lady who captures this highly respected title receives a crown of ringed bologna and a King for her arm. And of course, there is the outhouse race where people build a crude loo on wheels to push around town as fast as they can. The only requirements? The inclusion of a Sears catalog and somebody riding inside—hopefully not because of one too many bologna sticks.
5. Humongous Fungus: August 7-10, Crystal Falls, MI
In honor of the world's largest—and possibly oldest—living organism, the Amirillaria Bulbosa (aka "honey mushroom," which spans 38 acres under an Iron County forest and may be as old as 10,000 years), the good people of Crystal Falls, Michigan, throw a festival every year. People travel from all over the world to get a glimpse of this humongous fungus, but can be bitterly disappointed upon realization that it is almost completely underground. But their disappointment does not last long. At the festival there are fungus shirts, fungus burgers, fungus fudge, and fungus mushroom hats to assuage their grief.
And did I mention the HUMONGOUS sausage and mushroom pizza they cook every year? Placed over a roasting pit in a humongous pizza-roasting pan by a humongous lumber truck crane, this pizza measures over 100 square feet! [Image courtesy of Kim Olson.] Other events include a mushroom cook-off, a strong man competition and a humongous picnic. Plus David Letterman once mentioned the famed Humungous Fungus on one of his top ten lists.
7. Turkey Testicle Festival: October 11, Byron, IL
It must be the rhyming, because I cannot think of any other reason why there are so many testicle festivals. This one, however, is a little more PG. Still only for the 21-and-over crowd (is it necessary to be plastered when consuming fried testicles?), the Turkey Testicle Festival consists of more savory activities like Karaoke, a performance by the Testilett dancers, and a fundraiser for charity that brought in over $25,000 last year.
Every year, over 275 lbs. of turkey testicles are consumed at Byron's Union Street Station. Now in its 30th year, this festival is facing an uphill battle to continue the tradition. Last year, an underage drinker got past security, and passed out in the bathroom, prompting a police investigation. Now the fate of this storied festival is up in the air. How storied? Well, there's a song dedicated to it.
"¢ The Dam Festival in Eaton Rapids, Michigan. Just think of the possibilities"¦ "Where are you off to?" "I'm going to that Dam Festival."
"¢ The Hopps of Fun Beer Festival in Mackinaw City, Michigan. I just really liked the title.
"¢ The Pasty Festival in Calumet, Michigan. It's not that kind of pasty"¦but there is a poetry slam!
"¢ The Menudo Festival in San Fernando, California. Menudo is tripe, or cow's stomach. It's thought to cure a hangover, but I don't think I've ever met a hangover worth menudo.
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