Things to Do at America's Weirdest Festivals

A guide to events that celebrate everything from bugs and chitterlings to hollerin' and underwater music from all around the United States.

Americans love a good reason to celebrate and hold a festival. There are festivals dedicated to classic cars, food, live music and all manner of historical figures and events. Then there are the truly weird festivals—the ones that honor pig intestines, a cartoon donkey, a frozen dead man, hollerin’ and plain weirdness. So check out these festivals, then get out there and celebrate by chowing down, hollerin' and just being weird.

Chitlin’ Strut

 Chitlin' Strut
A festival-goer eats some fried chitlins at the Chitlin' Strut in South Carolina. (©The Augusta Chronicle)

This annual festival honors the chitterling, as known locally as the "chitlin"—a boiled or fried pig intestine that is considered a delicacy by many. On the Saturday after Thanksgiving in Salley, South Carolina, attendees have tons of chitlins to enjoy. Literally, tons. After you have eaten your fill (assuming you can stand the smell off them being cooked), there are other activities, including hog-calling, helicopter rides, carnival rides, a parade, a Chitlin’ Strut Idol contest and a beauty pageant. After all, who wouldn't want the title of Miss Chitlin'?  

Eeyore’s Birthday Party

Eeyore's Birthday Party
Costumes are a big tradition at Eeyore's Birthday Party. Just beware that some costumes are little more than body paint. (©Jack Newton/Wikimedia Commons)

Eeyore’s Birthday Party—honoring one of Winnie the Pooh’s best friends—features live music, food and drink vendors and costume contests. Another prominent part of the Austin, Texas, festival are the large drum circles where many people gather to demonstrate their musical abilities. Oddly, though, for a festival that honors a cartoon character, it is quite common to see especially female attendees wearing nothing but body paint.

National Hollerin’ Contest

 National Hollerin' Contest
A contestant shares her talent in National Hollerin' Contest. (©Gerry Dincher/Flickr, Creative Commons)

Warm up your vocal cords: Every year in Spivey’s Corner, North Carolina, this competition takes place for all to hear. The National Hollerin’ Contest began in 1969 and now includes a barbeque cook-off that's sanctioned by the North Carolina Pork Council, live music, a classic-car show, a kids’ entertainment zone, and, the main event, a hollerin’ contest. To be fair, hollering is technically one of the world's oldest forms of communication. 

Burning Man

Burning Man Festival
During the Burning Man Festival, a whole town is built and then a large effigy is burned to the ground in a weeklong festival of art and community. (©Steve Jurvetson/Flickr, Creative Commons)

Burning Man is a week-long annual event in the Nevada desert that begins on the last Monday in August and ends on the first Monday in September, which is Labor Day. It takes its name from the ritual burning of a large wooden effigy, on Saturday evening of the festival.

The event is described as an experiment in community, art, radical self-expression, and radical self-reliance. Participants join in the effort annually to create Black Rock City, a temporary metropolis dedicated to art and community, then they burn it down.

Frozen Dead Guy Days

 Frozen Dead Guy Days
Groups get ready to start the coffin race during the annual Frozen Dead Guy Days. (©Jerry Lewis/Flickr, Creative Commons)

The festival pays homage to Bredo Morstol, who is frozen in a state of suspended animation and housed in a shed on dry ice in the mountains above Nederland, Colorado. The event features outrageous events including coffin races, a costumed polar plunge, ice turkey bowling, brain freeze contests, snowy beach volleyball, a parade of hearses and the frozen-salmon toss. And don't forget to enter the frozen T-shirt contest or the frozen dead-poet slam. It all takes place amid a huge, free music festival. No doubt Bredo would be proud.

Lower Keys Underwater Music Festival

Underwater Music Festival
Kaitlin Goddard, left, blows through an artist's flying fish whistle during the Underwater Music Festival. Mermaid Sarah Brunner is at right. (©Bob Care/Florida Keys News Bureau)

For the last 31 years, each summer in the Florida Keys, selections ranging from “Yellow Submarine” to humpback whale songs are piped underwater for an unforgettable acoustic experience, promoting reef preservation. Hundreds of divers and snorkelers converge on a beautiful coral reef in the National Marine Sanctuary, where celebrity attendees, including the Snorkeling Elvises, are a traditional part of the scene. You know that if the Snorkeling Elvises are going to be there, it's a worthwhile event. 


The Alberti Flea Circus gets a volunteer at BugFest. (©Barbara Hobbs/Flickr, Creative Commons)

Seldom are the words “tasty” and “bugs” used together, except at the annual BugFest. Each year, more than 35,000 adventurous diners descend upon Raleigh, North Carolina, to observe, learn about—and even eat—bugs. The 2015 festival’s theme bug is the cicada. Not wierd enough yet? The main sponsor is a pest-control company. 

The Amazing Roswell UFO Festival

The Amazing Roswell UFO Festival
It's not unusual to see people in costume as interstellar travelers during the Amazing Roswell UFO Festival. (©Kathy Burns-Millyard/Shutterstock)

Each July, the faithful—and the cynical—gather at the UFO Festival to celebrate the anniversary of the “Roswell Incident,” when a UFO was said to have crashed into the famous Area 51 military grounds nearby. Featuring experts, authors, researchers and lecturers dissecting the infamous incident, the celebration also sports an alien parade, an alien costume contest and an alien hot-air-balloon ride.

Gilroy Garlic Festival

 Gilroy Garlic Festival
Garlic ice cream is on the menu at the Gilroy Garlic Festival. And it's free! (©Anita Ritenour/Flickr, Creative Commons)

For 35 years, Gilroy, California, has been home to one of the largest food festivals in the United States—the Garlic Festival. Attendees can enjoy all things garlic, along with live music and a garlic-braiding workshop. The 2015 event even included a wedding.

How Weird Street Faire

How Weird Street Faire
Weirdness abounds at the San Francisco How Weird Street Faire. (©Tom Hilton/Flickr, Creative Commons)

San Francisco's How Weird Street Faire features "beautiful freaks in costume, colorful curiosities and extraordinary strangeness," according to its own advertising. Billing itself as "The Weirdest Show on Earth," the annual one-day festival features exotic performers, unique consessions, designer merchants, art of all types and the chance to enter a contest to be the "World's Weirdest Man and/or Woman". And it's all done in the name of peace, man.