While there are festivals throughout the year in the United States, there are a few that stand above the rest when it comes to being unique, eccentric and some maybe even a little morbid.
A Fungi Festival in Crystal Falls, Michigan
Talk about imaginative marketing! In 1992, people foraging in a forest near a tiny township in Michigan discovered a huge fungus growing beneath the moist soil. The giant mushroom, known to scientists as armillaria bulbosa, stretches across 37 acres, weighs an estimated 21,000 pounds and is 1,500-years-old.
The tourism appeal of that phenomenon was not lost on residents of the nearby town of Crystal Falls. They created an annual Humongous Fungus Fest, planned a series of enjoyable activities and began to cash in on the unusual appeal of what many people might consider being an easy-to-overlook example of Mother Nature’s sense of humor.
Even though cooking and consuming a 10-foot-square mushroom pizza is no longer part of the festivities, guests can enjoy sports competitions, fireworks and a parade to entertain revelers, along with educational facts about which mushrooms are safe to pick and eat.
By the way, the star of this attention actually isn’t much to look at. Most of the moldy monster is hidden underground, and only small heads that protrude above the surface are visible.
An Outer Space Festival Leads to Flights of Fancy
If you think that celebrating a titanic toadstool is unique, think again. Along with famous fetes like the New Orleans Mardi Gras, National Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington, DC and Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta, there’s a choice of festivals around the United States that are fun, funky and in some cases far out.
What could be further out than an alien being visiting our planet? The recovery of metallic and rubber debris that fell from the sky near Roswell, New Mexico in 1947 prompted stories of a flying saucer, alien intruders and a government cover-up.
Taking advantage of the interest the incident spawned, the town laid claim to the title of “UFO Capital of the World” and launched an annual UFO Festival. Participants may join in an Alien Chase 5-K Walk/Run, tee off for illuminated night golf and enjoy museum exhibits that explore the human connection to science, space and technology.
The area occupied by the Underwater Music Festival in the Florida Keys is above Looe Key Reef, which is part of North America’s only living coral reef. Divers and snorkelers watch musical mermaids “playing” surreal instruments as tropical water-themed songs like Jimmy Buffer’s “Fins” and the Beatles’ “Octopuss’s Garden” are streamed through speakers suspended below boats.
Blessing Boats and Singeing Socks
Water also is involved in another annual Florida tradition, in festival form. Each spring, residents in Panama City gather at a marina during the Blessing of the Fleet and Burning of the Socks to pray for local fishermen and their families as a parade of boats passes by. Then they ring in flip-flop season by tossing their socks into a bathtub and watching them go up in flames.
In contrast with the warm water off Florida’s coast is the frigid weather during Frozen Dead Guy Days in and around Nederland, Colorado. Brave souls challenge the elements during a Costumed Polar Plunge, Frozen Turkey Bowling, and the Frozen T-Shirt and Brain Freeze Contests. Coffin Races pit teams of six pallbearers carrying a “corpse” through a course of mud, snow and obstacles.
It might be time to fly South with the rubber ducks for the winter after the big freeze. Ducks take to the water in Louisiana’s Cajun Bayou at the Thibodeauxville Fall Festival. After they enjoy tasty Cajun food, art and a car show, attendees watch as hundreds of rubber ducks are dropped in the Bayou LaFourche for a race to the finish. The owner of the winning waterfowl gets bragging rights and a $1,000 prize.
Chickens have top billing during a unique event that is part of the Mardi Gras in Lake Charles, Louisiana. The Courir de Mardi Gras (Mardi Gras Run) is rooted in French medieval history.
People wearing elaborate costumes and masks make their way through town led by a Captain, stopping at homes and businesses to dance for those inside. If the inhabitants demonstrate their enjoyment of the entertainment, the Mardi Gras Captain offers thanks by throwing a chicken into the air.
Tiny Homes and Tinier Twins
Two T words round out our exploration of unusual festivals. The focus of the South Eastern Tiny House Festival is affordable, space-saving, sustainable living.
The message is conveyed during a tour of minuscule homes and talks about topics like urban planning, downsizing and minimalism. The project, conducted by the MicroLife Institute, seeks to combine fun and entertainment with messaging about micro-living, housing diversity and pocket neighborhoods.
Twins come in all sizes and tiny ones are among those who attend Twin Days in – where else – Twinsburg, Ohio. The annual festival attracts matched sets from around the world.
They vie for plaudits in contests seeking the youngest and oldest, most and least alike and a talent show. A highlight of the festivities is the aptly named Double-Take Parade.
If You Go:
Festival dates and events often change from year to year, and some festivities have been postponed because of the Covid 19 pandemic. An Internet check will provide the latest information about these, and other, far-out festivals.
To learn more about the festival inspired by the massive mushroom, check out Crystal Falls, Michigan online.
Before looking for the great beyond, log on to the Roswell, New Mexico website.
Virtual Florida is waiting, visit the Florida Keys and Visit Panama City from your computer.
According to the Frozen Dead Guy Days Facebook Page, if you’re ready to run a “dead body” in a coffin through an obstacle course, you will have to wait at least another year. The event, honoring Bredo Morstel who died in 1989 and froze and remains in a TuffShed in Nederland, has been canceled for March 2023.
Regular attendees are hopeful that it Frozen Dead Guy Days will return for yet another run around the frozen course to honor the 110-year-old Norweigian Grandpa.
Warm up with the spicy festival in the Cajun Bayou in Louisiana, by grabbing a bowl of gumbo, settle into your computer and head on over to their website to plan your itinerary.
If spicy food isn’t enough, get ready for Mardi Gras in the City of Lake Charles.
Sustainable living is on the rise, but it doesn’t happen without a little computer research, log on to the Micro Life Institute.
Finally, grab your twin and get ready for Twin Days by visiting their website.