8 Weird and Wonderful November Festivals

Geoffrey Fairchild
Geoffrey Fairchild / Geoffrey Fairchild

There are festivals across the United States every month, but probably fewer in November because of the weather and holiday preparations. The annual festivals that do occur stand out, not only because of their rarity, but because they are just plain outstanding. Here are eight you might be able to enjoy this month …and one you can’t.

1. Return Day

Photograph by Delawareguy.

Sussex County, Delaware has an unusual but delightful tradition for healing the wounds caused by the November election. It’s called Return Day, when things “return to normal.” On Thursday after Election Day (November 6th this year), those who ran in local and state elections ride together with their opponents in a parade for a show of unity (along with marching bands and other parade entries). Then the town crier formally announces the election results at the Sussex County Courthouse. They also “bury the hatchet,” so to speak, with a hatchet toss event -but they don’t throw it at each other! There’s a public barbecue featuring a whole roast ox, and festivities go on until late at night, with music and other entertainment. See more about Return Day at the official site

2. Big Pig Jig

Photograph from the Big PIg Jig website.

Get ready for the 33rd annual Big Pig Jig in Vienna, Georgia! The festival is November 6th through the 8th this year. The Big Pig Jig is a memorable name for a barbecue competition. The theme this year is “Gone with the Swine.” Of course, surrounding the barbecue contest is all the normal festival events: a parade, live music, carnival rides, arts and crafts, all presided over by the pageant queen Miss Big Pig Jig. The contest was born out of a group of friends arguing over who could make the best barbecue -and the only way to settle it was a contest. And what better time to hold a barbecue contest than during the county’s annual hog show? That was in 1982, and the festival has been growing ever since.

3. Wurstfest

Photograph by Flickr user Sean Loyless.

People in New Braunfels, Texas will argue that the best festival is Wurstfest! “The best ten days in sausage history” happens November 7th through the 16th this year. Wurstfest began as a small municipal festival in 1961, conceived by local veterinarian and City Meat Inspector Ed A. Grist. The one-day celebration took the city by surprise with a turnout of 2,000 people. And those surprises have continued ever since, as attendance grew by leaps and bounds. The festival expanded in area and now has its own dedicated fairgrounds, and expanded in time to ten days. Wurstfest opens on Friday with the traditional biting of the sausage, and continues with a full schedule of entertainment from dozens of orchestras, yodelers, dancers, polka bands, Tex-Mex bands, and various traditional and eclectic musicians. The big draw, though, is the food -tons of sausages in the Marktplatz, and plenty of beer in the Biergarten, in addition to the fair food trucks you expect at a festival.

4. Alaska Bald Eagle Festival

Photograph by Flickr user Bruce Barrett.

Up in Haines, Alaska, they’ll celebrate the Alaska Bald Eagle Festival November 10th through the 16th, sponsored by the American Bald Eagle Foundation. The festival is timed to coincide with a late run of salmon, which draws thousands of bald eagles to feed. Tour busses will take festival attendees to the Alaska Bald Eagle Preserve to watch. Other events include the photography competition, photography seminars, cultural events, wildlife classes, and a banquet -which includes a chocolate buffet!

5. Quiet Festival

Photograph by Flickr user N@ncy N@nce.

One way a local festival is hardly ever described is quiet. It’s different in Ocean City, New Jersey, where the Quiet Festival will be held November 14th through the 16th. They’ve thought up all kinds of relatively quiet but pleasant activities like kite flying, bubble blowing, paper airplane flying, a yo-yo demonstration, jewelry making, and a quiet snoring contest on the beach called “Snore at the Shore.” Entertainment will be provided by a sign language club and a wind chimes band. There’s even a pet contest for hamsters, turtles, rabbits, hermit crabs, and other quiet pets. The Quiet Festival is sponsored by the National Association of tired People (NAP), “a quiet, semi-non existent organization.” See some pictures of past festivals here.

6. Oak Street Po-Boy Festival

Photograph by Geoffrey Fairchild.

The 2014 Oak Street Po Boy Festival will be Sunday, November 23rd in New Orleans, Louisiana. This is an eight-block-long street festival honoring the traditional po-boy sandwich, whatever you want to put on it. But it’s also about preserving the history of the Oak Street business district and bringing the neighborhood together for a good time. Expect Dixieland music from a brass band and roving beer vendors.

7. World's Championship Duck Calling Contest & Wings Over the Prairie Festival

Photograph from the Stuttgart Chamber of Commerce.

Stuttgart, Arkansas, calls itself the “Rice and Duck Capital of the World.” During Thanksgiving week, the duck side wins out as the town hosts the 79th annual World's Championship Duck Calling Contest & Wings Over the Prairie Festival, which often gets shortened to the Duck Festival in actual use. This year’s event will be held November 22nd through the 29th. The Duck Calling Contest got started in 1936 as a part of the now-defunct Arkansas Rice Carnival. The winner that year walked away with prizes worth about $6.60. This year’s champion will see $15,000 in prizes. No wonder this contest draws entries from all over the U.S. and Canada! But you can’t just enter: you have to be qualified by winning sanctioned preliminary events. Still, the festival itself has plenty of other duck calling competitions for all ages, and even duck-calling lessons. There’s also the Queen Mallard pageant, the Duck Race, and the Duck Gumbo Cook-off.

8. Salley Chitlin Strut

The annual Salley Chitlin Strut in Salley, South Carolina, will be on November 29th this year, but it’s easy to remember any year because it’s always the Saturday after Thankgiving. Hey, after a few days of leftover turkey, you might be ready to eat some chitlins! That’s the way you pronounce chitterlings, or fried hog intestines. Yes, that’s what they are. Okay, the Salley Chitlin Strut has more to offer than just food, and different food if you insist. But some festivities begin even earlier. The beauty pageant to crown the Queen of the Chitlin Strut is November the 8th, and some other preliminary events happen Thanksgiving week. Check back for a schedule when it becomes finalized.

9. World Championship Punkin’ Chunkin

Photograph by Flickr user Chris Connelly.

The World Championship Punkin Chunkin has been held the first weekend in November in a big field in Delaware since 1986. People came from all over to throw a pumpkin with a compressed air cannon, trebuchet, catapult, centrifugal engine, or by human power alone. Due to TV and internet exposure, the annual event has grown way beyond what the founders ever expected. Legal issues forced the event to move to a permanent home, and the 2014 Punkin Chunkin was to be the first held at the Dover International Speedway. However, plans could not be finalized in time, and the Punkin Chunkin is postponed until 2015. Check back for information next year.