11 Quirky Hidden Gem Food Festivals Worthy of a Drive
At the very best under-the-radar food festivals hungry attendees do more than just eat food – they celebrate it! Here are 11 food shindigs to add to your itinerary.
1. Gilory Garlic Festival, Gilroy, CA
This year marked the 36th annual Gilory Garlic Festival, which is celebrated annually during the last weekend of July. The dozens of booths along the Festival’s “Gourmet Alley” are a testament to the versatility of garlic, although some items —like garlic ice cream— might only appeal to diehard fans.
2. Pennsylvania Bacon Festival, Philadelphia, PA
The inaugural celebration of the most heavily hyped meat product of the century is scheduled to kick off on October 4. The festival promises not just a staggering array of bacon-centric dishes but also a bacon eating contest and a bacon-off, in which participants will compete to create the most bacon-licious appetizer, entrée, or dessert.
3. Barnesville Potato Days Festival, Barnesville, MN
The lowly spud is elevated to a position of honor at this two-day celebration that dates back to the 1930s. Each year 20,000 tater fans flock to this town, which has a rich history of potato production, to participate in contests of potato picking, potato peeling, mashed potato sculpting and, of course, mashed potato eating.
4. Giant Omelette Celebration, Abbeville, LA
Legend has it the practice of crafting a preposterously large omelette dates all the way back to Napoleon’s reign. The general was so taken by the dish after it was served to him Bessieres, France that he ordered all the eggs in the town be used to make a giant omelette for his entire army to feast on. Since then, a number of cities internationally have taken up the tradition of giant-omelette-making, and in 1985 Abbeville joined the ranks. This year’s festivities, scheduled for November 1 and 2, are set to include 5,000 eggs.
5. The Vendy Awards, New York, Philadelphia, New Orleans, Los Angeles, Chicago
Now in their tenth year, the Vendys provide a forum for vendors to compete for the title of best street food in their city. Throughout the year, an online poll encourages city-dwellers to nominate their favorite source of street food and then once a year (per city) all the finalist gather together in a street food extravaganza you can partake in even if you’re not an official judge. After all, they need people to vote on the people’s choice award.
6. Whoopie Pie Festival, Strasburg, PA
If you’ve never tried one, whoopie pies consist of a thick layer of creamy filling sandwiched between two soft round mini cakes. And they’re delicious. Each year in early September, Strasburg hosts a celebration of these Pennsylvania Dutch favorites. In addition to over 100 different flavors of whoopie pie, there’s also a scavenger hunt and games of checkers played with appropriately colored whoopie pies in which participants must eat the captured pies.
7. National Fiery Foods & Barbecue Show, Albuquerque, NM
Test your taste buds at the largest festival dedicated to spicy foods in the world. Over 20,000 people attended the 27th annual show this year, where they were subject to hundreds of different hot sauces and get a glimpse and a taste of the winner of the most recent Scovie Award, which celebrates the top fiery foods products internationally.
8. Bucyrus Bratwurst Festival, Bucyrus, OH
An annual tradition for the third weekend in August since 1968, this three-day event includes eating contests not just for bratwurst but also ice cream and pizza. In addition to all the food, there are several stages of live music throughout the festival if you feel like dancing after all those bratwurst.
9. Wellfleet OysterFest, Cape Cod, MA
There’s more than oyster eating at this two-day October festival, although there’s plenty of that to go around. Shellfish of all kind will be on hand, for eating and appreciating and educating. Particularly dexterous shellfish fans are encouraged to enter the annual Oyster Shuck-Off competition.
10. Napa Truffle Festival, Napa, CA
For something a little more upscale than bacon and bratwurst, head to northern California in January for a festival celebrating one of the rarest culinary delicacies. In addition to truffle-laden lunches and dinners, events include seminars on the science of truffles and even foraging excursions for those interested in hunting down their own valuable mushrooms.
11. Vermont Cheesemakers Festival, Shelburne, VT
Vermont is home to the country’s highest number of cheese makers per capita, and they’re putting those skills to use at this July festival. In their sixth year, over 40 local cheese makers were on hand with samples and demonstrations. Visitors can learn to cook with cheese or even make their own homemade cheeses.
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