Festivals beckon fans of Elvis, VW buses, ‘Star Trek,’ phone-throwing
Need some cheering up? Then head to one of these quirky festivals and contests we’ve found throughout the world. Some that may seem odd to Americans have meaning for locals and are rooted in centuries-old traditions. Others started that way but lightened up along the way. The celebrations below are generally more recent — and more outlandish — creations.
Mobile Phone Throwing Contest, Savonlinna, Finland: Here’s an event where you can release your can-you-hear-me-now frustrations (anyone can enter). Distance is the goal; a 2013 winner tossed a phone more than 320 feet. Categories include men’s, women’s and juniors (maximum 12 years old), plus individual, team, overhand and freestyle options. Aug. 22, https://www.mobilephonethrowing.fi
Royal Flush Crapper Derby, Twain Harte, Calif.: Clergy from St. James Episcopal Church lead the Blessing of the Crappers after the marching band plays, the honor guard of local ladies called the Charminettes strolls by and the outhouses are paraded past. The race has strict rules, including: “Outhouse must contain a toilet seat, roll of toilet paper and be a functional outhouse.” Previous entries include the Holy Roller (church-shaped), Jack Potty (big slot machine) and Home Sweet Throne (a regal theme). One worrisome rule: “Steering and Brakes are optional.” June 6, www.twainharterotary.com/2014-outhouse-races
Goomeri Pumpkin Festival, Goomeri, Australia: Everything’s coming up pumpkins — or going down pumpkins in the Great Australian Pumpkin Roll, where more than 600 participants propel pumpkins down Policeman’s Hill. Less messy are the pumpkin quilt challenge and the Pumpkin Pageant, where you “dress up in your favorite pumpkin costume and participate in our street parade.” You can also try your skills at bowling with pumpkins or tossing one in the Pumpkin Power Shot Put. And, of course, there’s a giant pumpkin contest. May 31, https://www.goomeripumpkinfestival.com.au
Yamor Festival, Otavalo, Ecuador: “Yamor” refers to a local chicha or corn-based fermented beverage made from seven varieties of corn. That gives you a sense of the celebration. Yamor, originally a pagan fertility festival celebrating the corn harvest, was co-opted by conquering Spaniards, who turned it into a Christian festival of spring. Festivities include processions with locals in traditional clothing, dancing in the streets, wooden cart races, fireworks, music (traditional as well as hard rock) and lots of chicha. Highlight: Men slather themselves with grease for insulation and attempt to swim a couple miles across ice-cold San Pablo Lake. Early September. www.realworldholidays.co.uk/events/yamor.aspx or www.ecuador.com/blog/yamor-festivities-an-exciting-blend-of-traditions
Air Guitar World Championships, Oulu, Finland: This championship has everything — gyrating guitarists, flailing drummers, screaming crowd, huge video screen, flashing lights, a wall of speakers, loud rock ‘n’ roll — except the instruments. Contestants compete for prizes, and this year will celebrate the event’s 20th anniversary. Aug. 26-28, https://www.airguitarworldchampionships.com
Giant Omelette Celebration, Abbeville, La.: The Procession of Chefs carries bread and eggs to a skillet that’s 12 feet in diameter. Those chefs use tools that look like garden hoes to stir 5,000 eggs, 50 pounds of onions, five gallons of onion tops, 75 bell peppers, 61/2 gallons of milk, 52 pounds of butter, 11/2 gallons of cooking oil, crawfish tails, two gallons of parsley, two boxes of black pepper, three boxes of salt and Tabasco sauce into a gigantic Omelette of Friendship. While the omelet is cooking over the open fire, check out the antique tractor egg-cracking contest, where visitors back a tractor into an egg, aiming to make the smallest crack. Nov. 7 and 8, https://www.giantomelette.org
Noche de los Rábanos (Night of the Radishes), Oaxaca, Mexico: This radish-carving event is thought to be a 100-year-old tradition honoring the harvest. Now it’s turned into a food-sculpture festival with locals fashioning the red-and-white vegetables into Maya gods, cathedrals and musicians playing guitars as well as scenes from Jesus’ life, Mexico’s War of Independence and village life complete with mariachi bands and half-radish “tile-roofed” buildings. Dec. 23, https://www.bit.ly/1CPRTe1
Porthcawl Elvis Festival, Porthcawl, Wales: Are you lonesome tonight? Want to get all shook up instead? Costumed Elvises are not only rockin’ all over town, the ETAs (Elvis tribute artists) also present specialized performances: the “traditional” Elvis Gospel Show, Elvis at the Movies and a “full Vegas show.” In 2012, the festival is said to have broken a world record when 814 Elvises sang “Hound Dog.” Sept. 25-27, https://www.elvies.co.uk
Tarantula Festival, Coarsegold, Calif.: Held the Saturday before Halloween, the event capitalizes on the big hairy spiders’ perceived creepiness while showing people that they’re harmless and an important part of the environment. For proof, you can hold one of the eight-legged critters and survive. Festival highlights include tarantula races as well as the hairy-leg contest, with both men’s and women’s divisions. Oct. 24, https://www.bit.ly/1E0Ubsg
Whole Earth Man vs. Horse Marathon, Llanwrtyd Wells, Wales: Do you think you can outrun a horse? This 22-mile race along walking paths, farm tracks, forest roads and moors has been happening since 1980, but only twice has a man won. Surprisingly, though, horses have often triumphed by only a few seconds. The prize for the next runner who beats the horse and its rider is now around $1,500, and that will increase by about $750 per year till the next human runner wins. Is this your year to go for it? June 13, https://www.bit.ly/1KrAeJl
Old Bar Beach & Kombi Festival, Old Bar, Australia: Volkswagen bus fans — here’s your place. The goal is to bring together the greatest number of Kombis — old VW buses; in the past, they’ve gathered well over 120 for this beach town’s festivities with live music, face painting, fireworks and pirates. For the Kombi Cruise, the buses, many wildly decorated, drive a 20-mile loop, stopping for photo ops. (That is, assuming they don’t break down.) Prizes are awarded for, among other things, best “Splitty” (split-front-windshield model), best interior and most novel or unique. Oct. 3 and 4, https://www.oldbarbeachfestival.com.au
Dorset Knob Throwing Contest, Cattistock, England: These locally baked, yeast-bread biscuits or “knobs” have been thrown by competitors as far as 96 feet. Other knobs meet their fate by being tossed onto horizontal dartboards. In the knob-and-spoon race, contestants must balance their knobs on soup spoons while running a 30-foot-long route with a sharp turn in it — and then run back, all while keeping the knob in the spoon. You can also guess the weight of the Big Knob. (Tip: The heaviest one had been just over three pounds.) Environmentalists take heart: Leftover knobs become chicken and pig feed after the festival. May 3, https://www.dorsetknobthrowing.com
Walpurgisnacht (Witches Night Festival), Schierke, Thale, Braunlage and Altenau, Germany
The night when witches are said to fly on broomsticks to ancient pagan sacrificial sites on the Brocken, the highest peak in the Harz Mountains, has a 1,200-year-old history. In the late 8th century, Charlemagne waged war on Germanic tribes to convert them to Christianity, but pagans still practiced their beliefs on the Brocken. The Witches Festival in four villages celebrates both the witches — with dances, parades, bonfires, stories and costumed witches, devils and knights — and the notion of scaring them away with music played on lutes, dulcimers, harpsichords and other medieval-style instruments and with fireworks. April 30, https://www.thisisharz.com/witches-festival.html
Festival de la Luz (Festival of the Light), San José, Costa Rica
Wild costumes abound in the streets and on the fanciful parade floats. Past floats have honored peoples of the Caribbean, the biodiversity of the oceans, Hercules, Alice in Wonderland, Cinderella, the Lion King, the Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Peter Pan with fairies and pirates, Chinese culture, and the medieval world of castles, wizards, dragons and unicorns. Prizes have been awarded for the brightest floats, floats with the best lighting effects and floats with the “best moves.” Dec. 12, https://www.festivaldelaluz.cr or, in English, lat.ms/1CSxdnm
Vul-Con (formerly Spock Days), Vulcan, Canada
It’s not just that Vul-Con is a “Star Trek” festival — it’s that the entire town of about 2,000 residents 50 miles southeast of Calgary, gets into it: After all, Vulcan shares the name of Mr. Spock’s home planet. The visitors center, called the Vulcan Tourism & Trek Station, is shaped like a flying saucer; nearby sits a 30-foot-long model of the original Starship Enterprise. The Trekcetera Museum exhibits original costumes, props and set pieces from the “Star Trek” television series and movies. Vulcan Tourism is planning a tribute to Leonard Nimoy, who will always live long and prosper as Mr. Spock in Vulcan. July 25 and 26, https://www.vulcanconvention.com
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