By Hardy Jackson
A few days ago, I came across a list of the “10 quirky American festivals you must visit.”
Now I have been to a “quirky” festival or two.
Once, I baked in the sun at the “Willie Nelson and Friends Fourth of July Wing-Ding” at the shade-less infield of the Atlanta Motor Speedway, where Hank Jr. reportedly got a case of stage-fright and refused to come out of his trailer.
Looking at the crowd, it was a wise decision.
Another time I accidently ended up in Salley, South Carolina when the annual “Chitlin Strut” was underway. The smell of boiled and fried pig guts lingered on my clothes for days.
And then there was . . .
But back to the list.
Now I don’t know just how you define “quirky,” but apparently the list-maker felt that a key factor for keeping a festival festive is to attract visitors with something to eat that they normally would not eat.
So it would follow that folks would flock to Marlinton, West Virginia, every September for the “Roadkill Cook Off,” a daylong event that features “chefs” who cook up entries that according to the rules, “must have as their main ingredient, any animal commonly found dead on the side of the road.”
How “quirky” is that?
Cooking up “braised venison with portobello mushrooms, celery root and toasted pecans,” just ain’t the same as stopping for deer you hit with your truck, field dressing it just off the pavement, then getting it home and into the pot before it begins to turn.
More in keeping with my view of “quirky” is the “Testicle Festival,” held in the heat of the summer in Clinton, Montana. There is a testicle eating contest and a race – the Undie 500 –which folks run in their underwear, which is about all that is left to do after you have eaten your fill of testicles.
That one would make my list.
Festival planners get a lot of mileage out making fun of country folks. Pikeville, Kentucky has “Hillybilly Days,” during which locals do all sorts of “hillbilly” things that they would do if they really were “hillbillies.” Spivey’s Corner, North Carolina, is home of the National Hollerin’ Contest, where people gather to hear organized yelling.
Now, it is not like country folks are being picked on. They are having a lot of fun and making a lot of money shaking down city slickers who pay big bucks to see country folks in what country folks pass off as their natural habitat.
A fair swap I suppose.
Up in Crystal Falls, Michigan, they hold the “Humungus Fungus Fest,” where they celebrate “the discovery of one of the world’s largest living organisms” – all 37 acres of fungi –“by cooking a mushroom pizza the size of a room.”
Isn’t that sorta like honoring your family pig with a barbecue? Or is that just me?
As for others on the list, I think I’ll pass.
The “National Lentil Festival” in Pullman, Washington promotes more healthy eating than I consider necessary, while any gathering that features a “hairy leg contest” (the “Tarantula Awareness Festival” in California, where “awareness” is a big deal) is not the place for me.
In fact, the only one on the list that I found appealing was “Hemmingway Days,” where “Papa” look-alikes gather at Sloppy Joe’s Bar in Key West. That sounds like fun.
However, when I reached the bottom of the list I came to the inescapable conclusion that the list makers were a bunch of idiots.
Number 10 was the “Wisconsin State Cow Chip Throw and Festival.”
How could they list Wisconsin and fail to include Beaver, Oklahoma, which everyone knows is the “Cow Chip Throwing Capital of the World?”
And how could they fail to mention that the contest at Beaver inspired the owners of the Flora-Bama to fill the last weekend in April with the “Interstate Mullet Toss” where contestants throw a dead fish from one state to the other.
Which leads you to an overwhelming question, why isn’t the “Interstate Mullet Toss” on the list?
How can celebrating “Tarantula Awareness,” lentils, faux roadkill and acres of fungus be considered more festive than a beach full of beer soaked revelers enjoying the sun, the music, the food and the moment?
How can running in your underwear be more “quirky” than taking a mullet from a bucket, chunking it from Florida to Alabama, watching “mullet girls” wearing little more than underwear measure the throw so you can retrieve the fish and put it back in the bucket for the next contestant?
I have been there, done that, and gotten a T-shirt. There is no place on earth more “quirky” and more festive than the “Interstate Mullet Toss.”
The list is bogus.
Harvey H. (“Hardy”) Jackson is Professor Emeritus of History at Jacksonville State University.
He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org .