Earlier this summer we posted a round-up of some of the country’s hottest music festivals, which are all great options if you’re looking for a weekend of music, food and dancing. But if you’re looking for something a little more off the beaten track, there’s a plethora of unusual annual festivals out there. Check out our Bizarre Festival Bucket List below, and if you’ve visited any of these, tell us about it in the comments!
1) San Fermin in Nueva Orleans – New Orleans
If you can’t make it to Pamplona, Spain for the real “Running of the Bulls,” this bizarre annual festival is the best substitution. Anyone can register to be a runner (provided you show up in all white, as per Pamplonese tradition) but the “bulls” are members a local roller derby team, the Big Easy Rollergirls, who give the runners a head start before skating up to them and whacking them with plastic bats or butting them with their plastic-horned helmets. If this sounds chaotic and a little insane, it’s because it is. But don’t worry, the website makes sure you’re aware that “no one has ever been hospitalized.” Plus, they throw a party to celebrate once you make it to the finish line.
2) Underwater Music Festival – Florida Keys
This festival was started as a way to raise awareness for preservation of the Florida Keys – a valiant cause, but we’re most intrigued by the fact that the founder of this fest claims that the fish like to dance to Jimmy Buffett…we’ll believe it when we see it. The musicians descend to the watery depths in scuba suits with their water-proofed instruments while speakers broadcast the underwater music to those who remain land-bound.
3) Tarantula Awareness Festival – Coarsegold, California
Arachnophobes, consider yourself warned: this one isn’t for you. Although this festival is smaller in scale and shorter in length than many of the other festivals, it still made the list due to the eclectic mix of activities on the day’s lineup. It takes place each year on the Saturday before Halloween, so of course there’s pumpkin carving and trick-or-treating, but there’s also such events as a “Hairy Leg Contest,” tarantula derbies and, in the midst of all these activities, a somewhat inexplicable 15 minute Jazzercise class. If you’re looking for the most activity packed in the fewest hours (provided you can stomach seeing all those tarantulas), you should head to Coarsegold.
4) Humungous Fungus Fest – Crystal Falls, Michigan
The fact that the subterranean fungus this festival celebrates – the guest of honor, if you will – is actually no longer the world’s largest living organism is irrelevant. The people of Crystal Falls will celebrate year after year anyway. For three days each year, residents and visitors enjoy activities like volleyball, horseshoe and golf tournaments, fireworks displays, pie eating contests and of course, eating the Humungous Pizza, a 10 foot by 10 foot pizza.
5) Interstate Mullet Toss – Alabama/Florida
If you were disappointed to learn that the contest involves throwing mullet fish, not mullet haircuts, across state lines, you wouldn’t be alone. Although this festival doesn’t really include everyone’s least favorite 1980s hairstyle, it’s still a pretty good weekend. The festival is hosted by local oyster bar and music venue The Flora-Bama, which straddles the border between Florida and Alabama on the Gulf Coast. With each mullet you toss, the Flora-Bama makes a contribution to local youth charities, and you’ll get a chance to advance in the contest and bring home the trophy. What’s not to love here?
6) Gilroy Garlic Fest – Gilroy, California
Any city that claims itself as the “Garlic Capital of the Nation and World” should have to substantiate that claim, which is exactly what Gilroy does every summer by hosting this festival. Here you’ll find every type of garlic-y food you’ve ever heard of plus some that you haven’t, like garlic ice cream. As unappealing as that may sound, you would be remiss to visit this festival and not try its most infamous treat.
7) Honobia Bigfoot Festival & Conference – Oklahoma
This is a two-day festival and an academic experience combined into one, and a chance to live out your “Finding Bigfoot” dreams. It’s held in Oklahoma’s Kiamchi Mountains, a popular spot for Bigfoot sightings and encounters. Come for the Bigfoot-themed arts and crafts, stay for the academic presentations on proper Bigfoot communication.