March 7, 2024 | Sammy Tran

America’s Most Bizarre Festivals

The Most Bizarre Festivals In The Country

America is home to lots of strange festivals and celebrations, but few are as unique and mind-boggling as these!

America's most bizarre festivals

Shrekfest, Wisconsin

Shrekfest started as a fake Facebook event and has turned into one of the coolest festivals in America. When the festivals co-founders realized the online event was a hoax, they went about making it a reality. 

The first Shrekfest was held in a park in 2014.

Shrekfest 2023Aaron of L.A. Photography, Shutterstock

Shrekfest, Wisconsin (cont’d)

Since its modest beginnings, Shrekfest has grown into a popular festival. People can dress up, indulge in Shrek-themed food, and compete in ogre-ish competitions, like roaring contests and an onion eating contest

There’s also a screening of the beloved movie.

Shrekfest 2023Aaron of L.A. Photography, Shutterstock

Avon Heritage Duck Tape Festival, Ohio

Duct tape has been the saving grace in many a-mishap, so naturally, people came up with a festival to pay homage to the beloved adhesive. 

Every year on Father’s Day weekend, the makers of one of the most recognizable duct tape brands, Duck Tape, host a grand celebration.

Duck tape  festRona Proudfoot, Flickr

Avon Heritage Duck Tape Festival, Ohio (cont’d)

In addition to familiar festivities, like carnival rides, concessions, and live music, this festival puts Duck Tape front and center. 

There are huge sculptures made out of Duck Tape, and a parade featuring Duck Tape floats. There’s even a fashion show, where people wear clothes made from the all-purpose adhesive.

Duck Tape festivalJim Chambers, Flickr

The Burning of Zozobra, New Mexico

If you’re looking to release some misery and bad vibes, head over to the Burning of Zozobra. 

Held on Labour Day weekend in Santa Fe, people build and burn a 50-foot effigy called a Zozobra, which means anguish or gloom in Spanish.

zozobra new mexicoSteve Terrell, Flickr

The Burning of Zozobra, New Mexico (cont’d)

The Zozobra is built from wood, wire, and cloth. Its arms and head can move, making it one of the world’s largest marionettes

People can stuff the Zozobra with paper that represents their misfortune, for example, traffic tickets or divorce papers. When the effigy is burned, all the worries from the past year are burned with it.

zozobra festival  new mexicoTobias Roybal, Flickr

Roadkill Cook-Off, West Virginia

It may not sound too appealing, but don’t worry—most of the food at this festival isn’t actually from the side of the road. 

The Roadkill Cook-Off is part of the Autumn Harvest Festival in Marlington, and chefs gather to make dishes featuring animals that are often seen as roadkill.

cook offMaria Dryfhout, Shutterstock

Roadkill Cook-Off, West Virginia (cont’d)

Squirrel, possum, raccoon, and armadillo are common ingredients in the cook-off, but there are also lots of familiar meats, like rabbit and venison. 

Visitors can try all the dishes and choose who serves up the best meal. The chefs compete for cash prizes, with the winner receiving a $1,200 grand prize.

Chili Cook-OffHerald Post, Flickr

Mike the Headless Chicken Festival, Colorado

In 1945, a man named Lloyd Olsen harvested one of his chickens for dinner. But even after cutting off its head, the bird continued to live for another 18 months. 

The blade missed severing the bird’s jugular vein and brain stem, and blood clot stopped it from bleeding out. Lloyd named the chicken Mike and fed him with an eyedropper.

Mike, the Headless Chicken festivalSkelekitty, Flickr

Mike the Headless Chicken Festival, Colorado (cont’d)

Since 1999, the town of Fruit has held an annual festival to celebrate the life of Mike the Headless Chicken. 

While there is a chicken wing eating contest and a poultry show at the festival, the main events are the 5k race and disc golf tournament.

Mike, the Headless ChickenSkelekitty, Flickr

Underwater Music Festival, Florida

This is definitely of the country’s quirkier festivals, but it’s also for a good cause. 

Held each year in the Lower Keys, the Underwater Music Festival encourages people to appreciate and care for the local coral reef.

Underwater Music FestivalAtlas Obscura

Underwater Music Festival, Florida (cont’d)

Divers and snorkelers can swim with beautiful marine life while enjoying the underwater music, which is shared via speakers attached to the underside of boats. 

Many people like to dress up in fun costumes and bring their own instruments to strike a cool pose.

Ronnie Smith playing piano underwaterMirrorpix, Getty Images

World’s Ugliest Dog Contest, California

Every dog has its day, and for the ones who are little rougher around the edges, that day comes every year in June at the World’s Ugliest Dog Contest. 

Hosted in the city of Petaluma, this festival is exactly what it sounds like. It’s also super heartwarming.

World's Ugliest Dog ContestDon McCullough, CA, USA, CC BY 2.0, Wikimedia Commons

World’s Ugliest Dog Contest, California (cont’d)

Any dog is welcome to have their moment in the spotlight with a walk down the Red Carpet. There’s also a Faux Paw Fashion Show which is also open to all dogs. 

The festival is already one that tugs on the heartstrings, but it’s even better knowing that it gives some ugly pooches a shot at finding their forever home.

2015 World's Ugliest Dog ContestWayne Dunbar, Flickr

Spam Jam, Hawaii

Hawaiians love spam, so much so that they go through 7 million cans of the stuff every year. They’ve also dedicated a festival to the divisive meat product.

Spam Jam, HawaiiRyan Kawailani Ozawa, Flickr

Spam Jam, Hawaii (cont’d)

Each year at the end of April, people come together for the Spam Jam, where spam is cooked up in more ways than you can imagine. 

There’s spam corn chowder, spam pizza, even spam flan for dessert. It’s one of the country’s tastier festivals, and much of the proceeds go to support the Hawaiian Food Bank.

Spam Jam 2009Kyle Nishioka, Flickr

BugFest, North Carolina

This one isn’t for the squeamish, but it’s definitely one of the country’s most unique festivals. Each year in September, 25,000 people attend this single-day festival in Raleigh. 

BugFest started in 1997 and in addition to insect exhibits features cool events like beekeeping demonstrations, roach races, and a flea circus.

Bug FestArk. Agricultural Experiment Station, Flickr

BugFest, North Carolina (cont’d)

At Café Insect, people can also try out bug-themed food which often includes real ants, worms, and other critters. 

Some of the best dishes include the Quivering Wax Worm Quiche, Three Bug Salad, and Cantonese Crickets over rice.

Insect FestivalArk. Agricultural Experiment Station, Flickr

Frozen Dead Guy Days, Colorado

This macabre festival was created in 2002, to honor Bredo Morstoel, whose frozen body is held in the town of Nederland. 

Morstoel perished in Norway in 1989 and his body was put on dry ice to be shipped to the US. The responsibility of storing the frozen body passed to Morstoel’s grandson and then his daughter.

Frozen Dead Guy DaysKent Kanouse, Flickr

Frozen Dead Guy Days, Colorado (cont’d)

Now, a man named Bo Shaffer keeps the body frozen in a shed and a festival to celebrate the cadaver takes place each year in March. 

Death and ice-themed activities are the features here, with the frozen T-shirt contest, hearse parade, and coffin march being most popular among tourists.

Frozen Dead Guy Days, ColoradoDaniel Oberhaus, Flickr

Blobfest, Pennsylvania

This strange festival was inspired by the 1958 sci-fi horror movie, The Blob. In one iconic scene, the Blob oozes into a theater, sending people running away in panic. 

Fans of the movie can re-enact the scene during this three-day festival held every July in Phoenixville.

BlobfestPennsylvania Center for the Book

Blobfest, Pennsylvania (cont’d)

The run-out is the most popular event at the festival, so tickets sell out fast. 

However, there’s lot of room to watch the spectacle, and many other cool Blob-themed events, like a costume contest and street fair.

Blobfest, PennsylvaniaRobert Trate, Flickr

Cow Chip Throw And Festival, Wisconsin

This one’s a bit gross, but also a whole lot of fun. Taking place during Labor Day weekend, this festival features a parade, an arts and crafts fair, and lots of live music. 

But the main even it the cow chip throw, where people toss dried cow dung.

Wisconsin State Cow Chip Cow StatueCorey Coyle, CC BY 3.0, Wikimedia Commons

Cow Chip Throw And Festival, Wisconsin (cont’d)

The cow chip throw pays homage to the pioneers who would burn the chips to keep warm during winter. 

People compete to throw their chip the farthest. In 1991, a man named Greg Neumaier set the record for the farthest throw, tossing his chip an incredible 248 feet.

Labor Day WisconsinDana Howe, Wikimedia Commons

Contraband Days Pirate Festival, Louisiana

According to local myths, a buccaneer named Jean Lafitte buried his treasure somewhere along the coast of Lake Charles. 

No one has found the treasure, but since 1958, Contraband Days Pirate Festival has honored the story and attracts more than 100,000 visitors each year.

Blackbeard Pirate FestivalWatts, Flickr

Contraband Days Pirate Festival, Louisiana (cont’d)

There are almost 100 different events to take part in at the festival, but its carnival and sailboat regatta are two of the main draws. 

The arm wrestling competition is also fun, and few people can resist the hilarious sight of the town’s mayor being made to walk the plank.

Pirate FestivalChris, Flickr

Rattlesnake Roundup, Texas

Welcome to the “biggest party in Texas”. Each May, famous country and Tejano artists take center stage for the Rattlesnake Roundup—and true to the festivals, name they’re joined by tons of snakes.

Rattlesnake Roundup, TexasLibrary of Congress, Picryl

Rattlesnake Roundup, Texas (cont’d)

Snakes shows where daredevils handle poisonous rattlesnakes and snake twirling acts are the most popular shows. 

Visitors can also win a prize for bringing the longest and smallest rattlesnake, or for bringing the most nonvenomous snakes to the festival. There’s also a carnival and lots of arts and crafts.

Rattlesnake Roundup, TexasLibrary of Congress, Picryl

Barnesville Potato Days, Minnesota

Every late August, 14,000 visitors flock to the small town of Barnesville to pay homage to potatoes.

Much like the versatile vegetable, the festival features a wide range of potato-themed events, including the Potato Salad Cook-Off and Miss Tator Tot pageant.

Potato Festival Night Stallslikesilkto, Needpix

Barnesville Potato Days, Minnesota (cont’d)

Other cool events include mashed potato wrestling and the French Fry Feed, where visitors can get as many free fries as they want. 

Of course, there’s also lots of food to sample, like potato sausage, Norwegian lefse, and traditional German potato dumplings. This unique festival has been a hit with travelers since 1938.

Potato sack raceJoe, Flickr

Faux Film Festival, Oregon

For surreal theater experience, head over to the Faux Film Festival. Fake commercials, movie trailers, and mockumentaries are the attractions at this festival which takes place every March.

Hollywood TheatreHeritage Vancouver Society, Flickr

Faux Film Festival, Oregon (cont’d)

Viewings are held in the historic Hollywood Theatre and the festival showcases a variety goofy flicks. Examples include the classic It Came from the Lint Trap and The Lady from Sockholm, a sock puppet film noir.

Hollywood TheatreVisitor7, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons

Secret City Festival, Tennessee

Held every June, the Secret City Festival is one of the largest WWII re-enactments in America. 

The festival brings awareness to Oak Ridge’s contribution to the war effort—in the 1940s, researchers based in the town created the atomic bomb. The top-secret project led to the city’s nickname.

WWII reenactments TennesseeChris Devers, Flickr

Secret City Festival, Tennessee (cont’d)

During the festival, visitors can tour sites of the Manhattan Project and look at where the explosive was created. 

The re-enactment, which features tanks, motorcycles, and other old military gear attracts about 20,000 people each year.

World War II ReenactmentWes Gibson, Flickr

Lebowski Fest, Kentucky

Pop culture has a way of inspiring strange things, as highlighted by the popularity of the Lebowski Fest. 

The festival was inspired by the much-loved movie The Big Lebowski and gives visitors a chance to put on their best impression of The Dude.

Lebowski FestJoe Poletta, CC BY-SA 2.0, Wikimedia Commons

Lebowski Fest, Kentucky (cont’d)

In addition to a screening of the movie, visitors can take part in unlimited bowling and a costume contest to see who is the best The Dude. 

Lebowski Fest began in 2002, and though the original festival is in Kentucky, there have been renditions in several other cities, like New York, Seattle, and even London, England.

Lebowski Fest 2010Joseph Novak, Flickr

UFO Festival, New Mexico

Whether you’re a believer or a skeptic, you’re bound to have fun at Roswell’s UFO Festival. The city is famous for all the UFO activity in the area and the festival, held every July, celebrates that.

Annual UFO FairPaul Juser, Shutterstock

UFO Festival, New Mexico (cont’d)

Visitors can learn about the history of UFO activity in Roswell and tour the city’s UFO Museum. There’s also an extraterrestrial-themed parade and showcases from guest speakers who’ve had experiences with aliens.

UFO festJoe Shlabotnik, Flickr

Humongous Fungus Fest, Michigan (cont’d)

Welcome to one of America’s coolest foodie events. For more than 30 years, tourists from around the world have gathered to celebrate a 200,000-pound shoestring mushroom

It’s the largest and oldest living organism in the world.

mushroomsRobert Owen-Wahl, Pexels

Humongous Fungus Fest, Michigan (cont’d)

The mushroom takes up 38 acres of land and is anywhere from 1,500 to 10,000 years old. Mushroom-inspired foods are the attraction at this three-day festival, which also showcases the world’s largest mushroom pizza. 

The Mr. Fungi ‘Beard’y Pageant and mushroom Swiss burger grill-out are also quite popular.

cutting mushroomGround Picture, Shutterstock


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