Small Towns With Big (And Peculiar!) Celebrations

Everyone loves a small town festival. They give you a chance to soak in the local culture and have a little fun at the same time. There are loads of festivals scattered around the United States and the rest of the world, many of which have unique themes. You won’t believe what they have to offer (or the disgusting items included on some of the menus)!

Frozen Dead Guy Days, Nederland, CO

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This festival, which takes place for three days in March, has been called “frigidly fun.” The town has a population of less than 1,500 people and is located in the mountains of Colorado. Each year the residents pay tribute to a man named Bredo Morstol, a Norwegian man who was cryogenically frozen and is kept in a shed above the town. During the event, attendees listen to live music, imbibe in alcohol, and eat a lot of food. There are also some pretty cool things to do for entertainment, such as race coffins or participate in a frozen t-shirt contest.

Underwater Music Festival, Florida Keys, FL

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The Florida Keys has hosted this unusual music festival for over 25 years. A man named Bill Becker founded the event in order to raise awareness for coral preservation. It all happens at Looe Key, which possesses one of the nation’s only living coral barrier reefs. The festival takes place for two days in July, and scuba divers wear funny costumes as they play music underwater on instruments such as the “trom-bonefish,” “sea-phan flute” and a “Fluke-a-Lele.” Naturally, they play the theme from Jaws as well as other ocean-themed songs. The music is broadcast on a local radio station.

Mike The Headless Chicken Festival, Fruita, CO

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Mike the headless chicken lived without his noggin for a staggering 18 months. In 1945, a farmer cut his head off but missed the jugular vein. The animal didn’t die, so the farmer fed him through his esophagus with an eyedropper. The farmer eventually took him around the states in a traveling exhibit, earning the equivalent of $56,000 a month. This Colorado festival celebrates the bird’s will to live. It takes place over two days in June and includes a chicken wing eating contest, chicken bingo, live music, a 5K “Run Like a Headless Chicken Race,” and car show.

West Virginia Roadkill Cook-Off, Marlinton, WV

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The Autumn Harvest Festival and West Virginia Roadkill Cook-off takes place every September in Marlinton, West Virginia. Just over 1,000 people live in this sleepy town, but the cooking festival is a huge highlight during the year. What’s on the menu? Black bear, possum, elk and reptiles. You can also dine on squirrel gravy and deer sausage. Eating roadkill was never taboo in the state, which historically had scarce resources for its residents. Amateur chefs compete in the cook-off, and judges deduct points if they find gravel or asphalt in their meals. Visitors can taste whatever they want for just $5.

The Great Texas Mosquito Festival, Clute, TX

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Every year, thousands of people gaze at Willie-Man-Chew, the 25-foot inflatable mosquito that has been the trademark of The Great Texas Mosquito Festival since 1981. The July event includes dancing and the Noah’s Ark Petting zoo where children can meet all sorts of animals. The festival is run by an executive “Swat Team” that plans the three-day event on the final weekend of July. There is also a lot of food, arts and craft vendors and contests to enjoy. Don’t miss the cornhole pitching and double washer pitching. There is also the famous BBQ Cook-off and Grill Master Competition.

Grumpy Old Men Festival, Wabasha, MN

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Wabasha, Minnesota, has about 2,500 residents and each February hosts a festival commemorating the 1993 film Grumpy Old Men, which was the setting of the classic movie. A Minnesotan named Mark Steven Johnson was the film’s writer. He often visited the town when he was young to visit his Grandpa Chuck. One of the festival’s biggest events is the Grumpy Plunge. Participants dive into the Mississippi River for charity. There is also an ice bar, bingo, ice shacks n’ Plaid Parade, cribbage tournament, and minnow races. The fishing contest costs just $5 for adults and $3 for kids.

Twins Days Festival, Twinsburgh, Ohio

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The world’s largest annual gathering of twins (and other multiples) takes place in the appropriately named Twinsburgh, Ohio. The festival honors the founding of the city in 1817 by identical twin brothers Aaron and Moses Wilcox. All kinds of twins — identical or fraternal, young or old, male or female — are invited to participate and take part in the Double Take Parade. The first Twins Day Festival took place in 1976, and 37 sets of twins attended. By 1995, 2,798 sets of twins registered for the event — an all-time high. Visitors don’t have to dress alike, but those who do certainly make an impression!

Annual National Shrimp Festival, Gulf Shores, AL

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This is one of the most renowned outdoor festivals in the United States. Crustacean lovers unite on the serene beaches of Gulf Shores, Alabama, to eat, naturally, shrimp! Attendees gather on the food boardwalk to dine on the shrimp, which is prepared in a variety of ways. Remember Forrest Gump? “You can barbecue it, boil it, broil it, bake it, saute it. Dey’s uh, shrimp-kabobs, shrimp creole, shrimp gumbo. Pan fried, deep fried, stir-fried. There’s pineapple shrimp, lemon shrimp, coconut shrimp, pepper shrimp, shrimp soup, shrimp stew, shrimp salad, shrimp and potatoes, shrimp burger, shrimp sandwich.” There’s also a sand sculpture contest.

World Champion Punkin Chunkin, Bridgeville, DE

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Bridgeville, Delaware, has approximately 2,000 residents, but its population is expanded substantially each November when people across the country visit for the annual World Championship Punkin Chunkin contest. Competitors use whatever is necessary to propel their pumpkins as far as they can (catapults, air cannons, etc.). There is also a Punkin Chunkin pageant, chili cook-off, and cooking competition. The non-profit event was canceled in 2017 after two spectators were injured when debris from one of the cannon’s hit them. The contest began in 1986 — the first of its kind in the United States — and draws thousands and thousands of spectators each year.

Lilac Festival, Mackinac Island, MI

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Every summer, thousands of people visit the sparsely populated Mackinac Island in Michigan to attend the 10-day Lilac festival. The festival first launched in 1949 and has blossomed over the years. Some of the amazing flowering trees are more than 150 years old! One of the main events is the crowning of The Lilac Queen, who is selected by students at the Mackinac Island Public School. The queen’s duties include welcoming guests, riding in the Lilac Festival parade and attending various events throughout the year. There are also several concerts. The Library of Congress has dubbed the event a “local legacy”.

Texas SandFest, Port Aransas, TX

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A little over 4,000 people live in Port Aransas, Texas. But during the SandFest, more than 100,000 people come into town from around the world to check out the incredible professional and amateur sculptors build amazing sand sculptures. The event, which first launched in 1997, also includes live music and entertainment. Budding sculptors are also invited to learn how to build their own sand sculptures. SandFest typically takes place in April, but the date changes annually due to the tides. The event has been an economic boom to the small town, increasing business for restaurants, hotels, and local merchants.

Duck Tape Festival, Avon, OH

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Everyone has a good use for duct tape. Avon, Ohio, pays tribute to the handyman’s staple by hosting a festival dedicated to the tape each June. The first few to arrive receive a free roll, and one of the best events to attend is the duct tape-themed fashion show. Known as the “Duct Tape Capital” of the world, Avon is proud to be the home of the famous Duck brand of duct tape. Be sure to watch the parade, which is full of duct tape-covered floats. There are also plenty of rides, games and food. It’s a great way to spend Father’s Day.

Cow Chip Throw & Festival, Prairie Du Sac, WI

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Around 4,000 people live in this Wisconsin town, and they know how to get their hands dirty. When pioneers first settled in the area, they struggled to find fuel to heat their homes and food during difficult winters. Fortunately, they realized that cow chips were a great source of heat! The first State Cow Chip Throw took place in 1975. Participants compete to see how far they can toss them. One tip: lick your hands for a good grip. Winners receive prizes as well as bragging rights. Spectators have just as much fun at the festival, which includes a parade and children’s activities.

Cody Stampede, Cody, WY

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The Fourth of July is a huge holiday for residents of Cody, Wyoming, who have spent the last 98 years celebrating the event over the course of five days. Known as the Cody Stampede, there are rodeos and parades to entertain residents and visitors, who are just a stone’s throw away from Yellowstone National Park. There are also many horse events, since the cowboy Buffalo Bill visited the town over 120 years ago. The festival includes a huge craft fair, marching bands, and live music. Residents are very patriotic, decorating their homes and businesses for the holiday. The event culminates with fireworks.

Punxsutawney Groundhog Festival & Groundhog Day, Punxsutawney, PA

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The first festival launched in 1966 and included a week of events for both children and adults. The event honors Pennsylvania’s most famous resident, the groundhog Punxsutawney Phil. Every Groundhog Day (Feb. 2), Phil predicts the weather. The 1993 film Groundhog Day is based on Phil and the town. The town, which has about 6,000 residents, is located about 84 miles from Pittsburgh. The annual event includes live music, food, fireworks, and numerous entertainers. It is free and open to the public. The festival takes place in July, but they celebrate Groundhog Day too, of course!

Tomato Fight Festival, Bunol, Spain

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About 9,600 people live in Buñol, Spain, but the population explodes each August when thousands of people visit to take part in one of the world’s most famous food fights. This village near Valencia started hosting the tomato fight in the mid-1940s. It became known as La Tomatina in the 1970s and is exactly what it appears to be: visitors and Spaniards chuck hundreds of tomatoes at each other in the streets. It’s unclear when or why the first tomato fight took place in Buñol, but people thought it was such a great idea that it became a tradition.

National Hollerin’ Contest, Spivey’s Corner, NC

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Each June, the 49 residents of Spivey’s Corner, North Carolina, prepare for an influx of thousands of visitors for its annual National Hollerin’ Contest. Upwards of 10,000 people travel there each year to watch and listen to folks holler. Contestants don’t just yell or scream. It takes a bit of finesse to make their voices sound like musical instruments. The contest first launched in 1969 after the co-founders decided they wanted to honor the lost art of hollerin’. It hearkens back to a time when people worked on rafts and would holler to one another as a way of communicating.

Testicle Festival, Clinton, MT

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Just over 1,000 people live in the small town of Clinton, Montana. But upwards of 15,000 people visit each year to attend the Testicle Festival, which celebrates bulls’ private parts. People go there to eat the delicacy, which they refer to as “Rocky Mountain oysters.” They also compete in various games, such as the hairy chest contest and bull chip throwing contest. But the big draw is eating the testicles. A sampler plate costs just $5. More than 4,000 pounds of testicles are consumed each year. A nearby campground allows visitors to stay for free. There are also plenty of testicle souvenirs at the Rocky Creek Lodge gift shop.

Christmas Festival Of Lights, Natchitoches, LA

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The small town of Natchitoches, Louisiana, was originally a French colony. In 1927, the town’s utilities superintendent, Max Burgdorf, created the first Christmas Festival to help the community celebrate the season. He bought 10-watt Christmas bulbs and made a pretty display on the riverbank. It has since turned into something much bigger. Now, the community spends more than $100,000 on fireworks alone. There’s also a parade and live music to entertain residents and visitors. Since 1956, there has been the crowning of Miss Merry Christmas. According to the organizers, “The many unique traditions set Natchitoches Christmas Festival apart from any other celebrations.”

Harry Potter Festival, WI

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This festival first launched in Edgerton, Wisconsin, in 2015. It got so big that organizers had to move it to Jefferson. The event celebrates the magical world of author J.K. Rowling and includes admission to venues such as live Wizards Chess, Dragon’s Alley, Serpent’s Alley, Festival Village, Quidditch Matches, and the Greenhouse. Organizers do the best they can to mimic the world of Harry Potter with fully animated patronuses and mugs of butterbeer. Visitors can ride a broomstick, search for horcruxes, put on a sorting hat, or find other things to do by checking out the Marauder’s Map.