With spring finally here and weather warming, I’m getting excited for festival season. No, not music. Food.
But beer, barbecue and chili can only hold my attention for so long. I like a little more adventure. Although they may not all make your mouth water, many strange festivals put tiny American towns on the map, while others raise awareness of a particular type of delicacy — Testicle Festival, anyone?
Here’s a look at 10 of the country’s most unusual food festivals.
Frog Leg Festival — Fellsmere, Florida
Forget Disney World. If you’re headed to central Florida, the Fellsmere Frog Leg Festival has enough fun for the whole family. The 26-year-old, four-day festival serves more than 7,000 pounds of the frog legs to 80,000 visitors and holds 2 Guinness Book World Records for The Most Frog Legs served in one day and the Largest Frog Leg Festival in the world. If you’re not interested in the main course, perhaps the fest’s other southern delicacies — like gator tail — will tempt your tastebuds. Next event: Jan. 18 – 21, 2018; froglegfestival.com
Whoopie Pie Festival — Hershey Farm Restaurant & Inn, Strasburg, Pennsylvania
Classic whoopie pies consist of two cake-like cookies sandwiching a vanilla cream-filled center. And that’s what we could count on for years. But then came the Whoopie Pie Festival with its creative cookie concoctions like pumpkin spice, orange chocolate, and root beer. More than 100,00 whoopie pies are served in 100 different flavors. Just to keep things fun, there is even an “adult” whoopie pie with alcohol infused icing. Next event: Sept. 9, 2017; facebook.com/hersheyfarm/ (The website whoopiepiefestival.com is currently under construction, so visit the host, Hershey Farm on Facebook until updates are made.)
Turkey Testicle Festival — Byron, Illinois
If you consider yourself a ballsy eater, head to the Turkey Testicle Festival and feast on — you guessed it — turkeys’ deep-fried tender bits. Now in it’s 38th year, the festival is credited with being the original “testicle festival” in the country, although similar festivals are now held in Deerfield, Michigan; Olean, Missouri; and Clinton, Montana, to name a few. If you attend one of these types of festivals, just remember, “Rocky Mountain Oysters,” are not a seafood option. Next event: Sept. 23, 2017; byronchamber.wixsite.com/chilittf
Bug Eating Festival — Zilker Park, Austin
Eating insects is nothing new, but with world population increasing, it’s also the protein of the future. The folks heading the annual Bug Eating Festival in Austin hope we can get the little grubbers past our gag reflex. Past delicacies have included ants, grasshoppers, wasps, wasp larva, katydids, and scorpions — usually fried or sautéed in barbecue or soy sauce, or served with dipping sauces. And if you simply can’t wait to learn how to eat bugs, a recent documentary, Bugs, put eating insects in the limelight and hosts a thorough website complete with beginner recipes like “silkworm spaghetti” and also a solution for what to do with those pesky June Bugs. Next event: TBD, either June 3 or 10, 2017; littleherds.org
Potato Festival — Barnesville, Minnesota
Spuds are no duds when it comes to inspiring a summer festival. Each year, more than 20,000 tater lovers descend on Barnesville, Minnesota for bushels of fun. What’s most a’peel’ing about the festival is it’s diverse mix of picking, carving, peeling, sacking and sculpting of potatoes, as well as a menu rooted in deliciousness. Try Norwegian lefse, potato pancakes, french fries, potato sausage, and German potato dumplings. But the main event is Mashed Potato Wrestling, where participants battle in a giant bath full of spuds. Next event: Aug. 25 – 26, 2017; potatodays.com
Waikiki Spam Jam — Kalakaua Avenue, Hawaii
Hawaii is the undisputed American land of sand, surf, and hefty portions of Spam. The state consumes more of the mysterious meat product than any other state — almost 7 million cans kicked each year in Hawaii alone. To celebrate their synergy, Hawaiians host a festival each year where chefs get creative. (Think: Spam cheesesteaks and tacos, and sweet Spam delicacies like Spam flan or Spam creme brûlée.) Next event: April 29, 2017; spamjamhawaii.com
Giant Omelette Celebration — Abbeville, Louisiana
According to local legend, Napoleon and his army were traveling through the South of France when they decided to spend the night in the town of Bessieres. Napoleon enjoyed the omelette the local innkeeper served him so much that he ordered the townspeople to gather every egg in the land so the chef could prepare one huge omelette for his entire army the next day. Looking to channel its French heritage, Abbeville, Louisiana started the Giant Omelette Celebration and now creates an annual 5,000-egg omelette filled with ingredients including onions, peppers, crawfish, and, because this is Louisiana we’re talking about, hot sauce. All celebration attendees are invited to enjoy a piece. Next event: Nov. 4 – 5, 2017; giantomelette.org
Roadkill Cook-off — Marlinton, West Virginia
The folks in West Virginia have a good sense of humor about stereotypes, and with it, they’ve struck gold. The annual event generates tens of thousands of dollars for the small town of 1,000. Although rarely practiced today, cooking roadkill has roots to the state’s rugged culture, when wasting food and resources was unthinkable — why shouldn’t a critter’s highway misfortune turn in to a great family meal? Black bear, squirrel and even some reptiles make it on to the adventurous menu. Amateur chefs from around the country try to squash the competition with interesting dishes like quail meatballs or iguana tacos (a Californian submission), and the local ladies compete for the title of “Miss Roadkill.” Next event: September 29 – 30, 2017; pccocwv.com/roadkill
Garlic Festival — Gilroy, California
Pack plenty of Tic Tacs, and get ready to enjoy one of the world’s most delicious celebrations. The Gilroy Garlic Festival has live entertainment, arts and crafts, cooking contest, and, of course, lots of garlicky food. More than two tons of garlic are consumed over the three-day event. Festival favorites include pepper steak sandwiches and fried calamari, as well as Gilroy garlic fries and garlic bread. But chefs get really creative with foods like garlic lollipops and garlic ice cream. Next event: July 28 – 30, 2017; gilroygarlicfestival.com
Goettafest — Newport, Kentucky
The German breakfast sausage goetta (pronounced “get-uh”) has quite the fan club in the Cincinnati area. The locals consume about 99 percent of the one million pounds it produces each year, so if you want to try it, you’ll have to take a trip to the Midwest city. Since that’s the case, why not jump right in to the Goettafest. Nachos, gumbo, gyro, pizza, sushi, brownies, bread pudding — everything tastes better with goetta, apparently. Next event: Aug. 3 – 6, 2017; goettafest.com