The Strangest Festival in Every State (#35 Is Just Plain Weird)

People come together for all sorts of strange celebrations — and these are some of the strangest.

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Updated May 28, 2024
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From a Shrek festival to one devoted entirely to one state’s love of SPAM, there are some incredibly weird traditions throughout the U.S.

It turns out that each state has its own version of a wacky weekend or absolutely absurd festival—some are significantly more absurd than others.

If you want to step up your travel game and check out the weirdest of the weird, these are the strangest festivals in each state.

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Alabama: Sweet Tater Festival (Cullman)

djile/Adobe couple eating french fries

Potato lovers, rejoice! In Cullman, Alabama, there’s an annual festival held over Labor Day Weekend to celebrate all types of ‘taters — from fries to ‘tater pies.

There’s also a car show, live music, and more to keep you entertained while you snack.

Alaska: Cordova Iceworm Festival (Cordova)

Tomsickova/Adobe landscape with aurora borealis

What began in 1961 as an answer to the winter blues (February in Alaska means 16 hours of darkness per day) has grown into a massive week-long celebration in honor of ice worms.

Believe it or not, these are real worms that live within Alaska’s glaciers.

Arizona: Ostrich Festival (Chandler)

Gusak/Adobe ostrich head

Each year, Chandler, Arizona, hosts a festival to celebrate its history of ostrich farming.

Over several decades, the festival has grown into a huge event, with food, performances, rides, and, of course, some roaming ostriches.

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Arkansas: Testicle Festival (Bentonville)

Antonio/Adobe bull in the bullring

The Bentonville Testicle Festival is named after its star dish, bull testicles. The festival also offers plenty of other food and drinks, as well as live performances.

No word yet on whether the Testicle Festival tradition will continue into 2024.

California: Gilroy Garlic Festival (Gilroy)

bit24/Adobe whole garlic with garlic cloves on table

For more than 40 years, Gilroy, California, has been home to a festival devoted entirely to — you guessed it — garlic.

From delectable dishes in “Gourmet Alley” to the crowning of the Garlic Festival Pageant Queen, the quirky event has become quite the smash hit.

Colorado: Mike the Headless Chicken Festival (Fruita)

Moonborne/Adobe chicken sunset

Every year in June, Fruita pays homage to a headless chicken named Mike, who, according to legend, survived for 18 months after having part of his head cut off.

In his honor, festival goers can run in a 5K, enjoy great food, take pictures with a giant headless chicken, and more.

Connecticut: Sea Music Festival (Essex)

Coetzee/ band outdoor at a celebration

Connecticut has a festival weekend devoted entirely to preserving the traditional music of the sea.

The Maritime Music & Tradition Society puts on the Sea Music Festival each year and features a range of live performances throughout the weekend.

Delaware: Apple Scrapple Festival (Bridgeville)

DC Studio/Adobe elderly client smelling apples

Delaware celebrates fall with a weekend devoted to showcasing its top-notch apples — and the many dishes you can make from them.

From pageants to craft shows to “scrapple slings” and, of course, a huge range of food vendors, there’s plenty to do at the Scrapple Festival.

Florida: King Mango Strut (Miami)

Pixelkram/Adobe fresh mango fruits

The self-proclaimed “Weirdest Parade in the Universe” was originally created as a parody of the King Orange Jamboree Parade, which was associated with college football’s Orange Bowl.

These days, the wonderful celebration of weird has become a New Year’s tradition.

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Georgia: Fire Ant Festival (Ashburn)

chika_milan/Adobe friends eating drinking dancing

Contrary to its name, the Fire Ant Festival isn’t about the bugs (though you may find some guests dressed in ant attire).

Guests can enjoy a carnival, BBQ cook-off, 5K, arts and crafts, live music, fireworks, and more.

Hawaii: SPAM Jam (Waikiki)

Adriana/Adobe hand holding a can of SPAM

If you’ve ever been to Hawaii, you’ve probably noticed the people love their SPAM.

This giant block party has live music, local vendors, and plenty to eat and drink — including, of course, plenty of local eateries’ top SPAM dishes.

Idaho: Boise Goathead Fest (Boise)

simona/Adobe tribulus terrestris

Boise’s Goathead Fest is part celebration and part awareness call. It starts with a wonderfully weird parade for cyclists, rollerbladers, and others on wheels.

Its main goal is raising awareness about local efforts to get rid of goathead, an invasive weed.

Illinois: Cogs & Corsets (Bloomington)

Keitma/Adobe man wearing a steampunk costume

Cogs & Corsets in Bloomington is a celebration of all things steampunk, a subculture that draws inspiration from the Victorian Era and the Gilded Age mixed with a bit of science fiction.

Beyond the fashion, the festival has plenty of whimsical vendors, workshops, and events.

Indiana: Valparaiso Popcorn Festival (Valparaiso)

Drobot Dean/Adobe woman rejoicing and holding popcorn

From “Popcorn Panic” races to hundreds of craft booths to live music and plenty of drinks, this community tradition in Valparaiso is going on its 45th year.

The late summer festival offers much more than popcorn (though it does provide plenty of that, too).

Iowa: Hobo Days (Britt)

Halfpoint/Adobe senior couple at the fun fair

Hobo may have a different definition now — but the term used to refer to workers who traveled by train to other towns to find jobs.

Britt’s Hobo Days festival celebrates these workers with a parade, entertainment, plenty of food, and even a “King and Queen of the Hobos” contest.

Kansas: Neewollah (Independence)

Laura/Adobe family at fair

In the early 20th century, Neewollah (Halloween spelled backward) was created to distract young people from getting up to no good on the holiday.

These days, it’s grown to a nine-day festival that includes several parades, entertainment, a chili cook-off, a pageant, and more.

Kentucky: Bat Festival (Louisville)

arrowsmith2/Adobe bat hanging upside down

Why not kick off the Halloween season with some live bats?

Held in October in Louisville, Kentucky, the Bat Festival has plenty to offer (aside from live bats and presentations about them), such as entertainment, food trucks, education tables, crafts, and live music.

Louisiana: Pirate Festival (Lake Charles)

Nataliia/Adobe dressed in pirate costumes

Louisiana’s pirate and seafaring festival is held on land and sea, and guests can get decked out in their best pirating attire to attend.

Held in spring on the shores of Lake Charles, the festival has plenty of food, fun, and entertainment, including cannon demonstrations.

Maine: The Moxie Festival (Lisbon)

tongpatong/Adobe hands holding glasses of cola

A summer festival inspired by Moxie, a medicine-turned-soft drink that was said to cure multiple ailments in the 19th century, Maine’s Moxie Festival has grown to include a parade, whoopie pie eating contest, car show, fishing derby, and more.

Maryland: Kinetic Sculpture Race (Baltimore)

Tatyana Nazatin/Adobe food festival in odessa

Each year, the shores of Baltimore’s Harbor are home to a Kinetic Sculpture Race.

These “human-powered works of art” race for about eight hours and cover 15 miles across pavement, mud, and sand.

Massachusetts: Festival of the Dead (Salem)

Deyan/Adobe salem witch museum

The Festival of the Dead is actually a series of events that take place in October in spooky Salem, Massachusetts.

From psychic fairs to the Salem Witches’ Halloween Ball, there’s plenty of haunted fun to be had.

Michigan: Testicle Festival (Deerfield)

ivan/Adobe spanish bull

Yes, there is a second state with its very own Testicle Festival.

The event is hosted by Deerfield’s American Legion and is centered around serving bull testicles, but you can also get mountain oysters, chicken gizzards, slaw, and drinks.

Minnesota: Twine Ball Day (Darwin)

ChiccoDodiFC/Adobe big ball of rough twine

Did you know Darwin, Minnesota, is home to the world’s largest ball of twine?

It’s not really clear why it exists, but because it lives in Darwin, the town celebrates the major roadside attraction with a “Twine Ball Day” every August.

Mississippi: Delta Hot Tamale Festival (Greenville)

Guajillo studio/Adobe mexican tamales

Greenville, Mississippi, which also happens to be the Hot Tamale Capital of the World, honors its history (and its favorite food) with a Hot Tamale Festival every fall. The three-day event celebrates tamales (obviously), as well as local artists, musicians, and more.

Missouri: Cave City Watermelon Festival (Cave City)

Jacob Lund/Adobe girls enjoying a watermelon

As the name suggests, this Cave City tradition is devoted to all things watermelon — including everything from a prize melon auction to a seed-spitting contest.

There are other attractions, like a car show, parade, food truck war, and more.

Montana: Buzzard Day (Glendive)

slowmotiongli/Adobe turkey vulture cathartes aura

Each year, Makoshika State Park celebrates spring and the return of turkey vultures with “Buzzard Days.”

As they’re considered one of “nature’s cleaners,” Makoshika hosts games, food, Buzzard runs, and more to welcome the birds back to the park.

Nebraska: The Wayne Chicken Show (Wayne)

spirenko/Adobe flock of chickens grazing

This festival, which has been clucking along since the 1980s, is all about the chickens.

Chicken-related activities include a “Cluck off,” a hard-boiled egg-eating contest (gross), and, of course, an egg toss. Each year, the town picks a different chicken-related theme for the event.

Nevada: Burning Man (Black Rock City)

Fernando/Adobe the burning man festival

Despite a 2023 disaster in which Burning Man guests were left stranded at their campsites due to flooding and bad weather, Burning Man — a gathering of campsites and creatives in the Black Rock Desert — will rise again in 2024 and take the crown for the weirdest festival in Nevada.

New Hampshire: Fantastic Forage Mushroom Festival (Laconia)

Iurii Kachkovskyi/Adobe brown mushrooms

From scavenger hunts to educational talks about edible and/or medicinal mushrooms to tie-dying mushroom attire and more, Laconia, New Hampshire, is home to quite the celebration of all things mushroom-related.

New Jersey: Asbury Park Zombie Walk (Asbury Park)

Bill/Adobe teens dressed as zombies

As a sort of fall/Halloween season kick-off, Asbury Park hosts a giant gathering of zombies.

Guests dress up in their ghoulish best to strut down the boardwalk, where they can get their undead makeup touched up, participate in a costume contest, grab a drink, and more.

New Mexico: Burning of Zozobra (Santa Fe)

leszekglasner/Adobe celebrating summer holi festival

Each year, the people of Santa Fe burn a terrifying 50-foot-high marionette, Zozobra, over Labor Day Weekend as a sort of sendoff for the summer.

2024 is also the 100th anniversary of the first Burning of Zozobra.

New York: Coney Island Mermaid Parade (Brooklyn)

kleberpicui/Adobe woman blowing confetti

One of New York City’s funnest (and weirdest) summer events, the Coney Island Mermaid Parade has been drawing spectators from far and wide since the early 80s.

The over-the-top event features fantastic costumes, floats, and even crowns a King Neptune and Queen Mermaid.

North Carolina: Ayden Collard Festival (Ayden)

Andrew/Adobe collard greens

A celebration of collard greens (among other things), Ayden’s annual September festival marks the end of summer with plenty of arts and entertainment, a parade, a collard eating contest (naturally), and more.

North Dakota: Norsk Høstfest (Minot)

NDABCREATIVITY/Adobe friends having fun time

Each fall, Norsk Høstfest honors and preserves its founders’ Nordic heritage.

During the event, visitors can expect the very best of Scandinavian culture, from entertainment to authentic cuisine to art and handcrafted items for sale.

Ohio: Frogman Festival (Loveland)

Elenathewise/Adobe street festival

A newcomer to the weird festival game, Loveland, Ohio, is home to a festival devoted to its own urban legend, “Frogman” — a Big Foot-type figure who’s allegedly been spotted for decades.

The festival also features researchers, a parade, crafts, and more.

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Oklahoma: Steamroller Print Festival (Oklahoma City)

Oguz Dikbakan/Adobe compact steamroller

Artsy and a great way to give back to the community, Oklahoma’s Steamroller Print Festival celebrates local artists and lets guests witness prints made with a five-ton steamroller.

There’s also live printing, local vendors, and plenty to eat and drink.

Oregon: McMenamins UFO Festival (McMinnville)

phonlamaiphoto/Adobe ufo in space

Whether you are a skeptic or a true believer, the McMenamins UFO Festival is sure to provide plenty of entertainment.

Aside from some out-of-this-world guest speakers, the event is packed with live music, a street fair, costume contests (for people and pets), and more.

Pennsylvania: The Mummers Parade (Philadelphia)

soupstock/Adobe boy watching a parade,

One of Philly’s wackiest traditions, the Mummers Parade, has flooded Broad Street with color and camp every New Year’s Day for well over a century.

The parade is filled with fantastic performances, culminating in a competition to award the best of the best.

Rhode Island: NecronomiCon (Providence)

Vergani Fotografia/Adobe brazilian woman celebrating carnival

A celebration of all things strange, NecronomiCon pays homage to the weirdos of fiction, art, and academia — and is inspired by one of Providence’s very own purveyors of peculiarity, H.P. Lovecraft.

South Carolina: World Grits Festival (St. George)

dbvirago/Adobe pat of butter on bowl

Eat grits, discuss grits, take a bath in grits — you’d be surprised at the grit-related activities you can get into at this South Carolina festival.

The people of St. George, who allegedly eat more grits per capita than anywhere else in the world, have turned their favorite dish into a party.

South Dakota: Potato Days (Clark)

natara/Adobe fresh potatoes in a wooden box

As an ode to its most well-known crop, Clark, South Dakota, began celebrating Potato Days back in the 1990s.

From an array of delicious potato dishes (are there any non-delicious potato dishes?) to mashed potato wrestling, Potato Days have become quite the event.

Tennessee: RC Cola-MoonPie Festival (Bell Buckle)

leekris/Adobe whoopie pies

An ode to a Southern staple, a fresh RC Cola, and a delicious MoonPie, Bell Buckle’s summer festival includes plenty of music, a parade, MoonPie-inspired games, a contest to see who traveled the furthest for the cola and pie combo, and more.

Texas: The Great Texas Mosquito Festival (Clute)

Halfpoint/Adobe chain swing ride

This three-day festival at the end of July is packed with food, games, rides, crafts, and cook-offs, and, hopefully, not too many mosquito bites.

Be sure to snap a photo with their enormous, inflatable mosquito.

Utah: Golden Onion Days (Payson)

Daxiao Productions/Adobe white onions stacked over each other

A celebration that dates back nearly a century, Golden Onion Days is a festival meant to bring old and new neighbors together and celebrate one of Payson’s top crops, onions.

The festival is packed with a parade, races, fireworks, plenty of food (not just onions), and more.

Vermont: Festival of Fools (Burlington)

gpointstudio/Adobe dancing at the music festival

Burlington’s Festival of Fools brings theater from around the world to the streets, with more than 100 free performances — from acrobatics to dancers to sketch comedians and live music.

Virginia: Chincoteague Pony Roundup, Swim, and Auction

somesense/Adobe shetland pony smile face

Chincoteague’s annual Pony Roundup, Swim, and Auction involves gathering ponies from their grazing ground at Assateague Island, helping them “swim” to Chincoteague Island, celebrating the ponies’ arrival with a carnival, and auctioning off several foals to new owners.

Washington: Viking Fest (Poulsbo)

Salsabila Ariadina/Adobe vikings in the winter of scandinavia,

The crowd tends to go all-out for Viking Fest in Poulsbo, so if you plan to attend, make sure you have your best Viking helmet and fur cloak prepared.

The festival is packed with events, from a parade to a road race to a Strongman Competition.

West Virginia: Roadkill Cook-Off (Marlinton)

zigres/Adobe young woman eating

Yes, you read that right. Every year, Marlinton hosts a “Roadkill Cook-Off,” but you don’t have to bring roadkill to participate.

You’d just need to cook up a dish using meat from an animal that technically could be roadkill (think squirrel, rabbit, or venison).

Wisconsin: Shrekfest (Milwaukee)

Erman Gunes/Adobe wax sculpture of shrek

If you happen to be very into one grumpy green ogre, boy, does Milwaukee have a festival for you.

Shrekfest, held annually on Labor Day Weekend, features games, live music, movie screenings, a roaring contest, and, naturally, a lot of people dressed up like Shrek and company.

Wyoming: Old West Days Festival (Jackson Hole)

Jim/Adobe chili cook off

In celebration of its rich history and culture, Jackson Hole hosts an Old West Days Festival for 10 days in May.

The event features everything from a chili cook-off to an Old West Brewfest to the Mountain Man Rendezvous (an ode to the old Rocky Mountain fur trade business).

Bottom line

leszekglasner/Adobe sunset party dancers

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Laura Gesualdi-Gilmore

Laura Gesualdi-Gilmore is a seasoned freelance writer who also teaches writing courses at Rutgers University. She's based in Jersey City and enjoys travel, live music and, of course, spending quality time with her pup.