Oddball Festivals Across America

Emma Crawford Coffin Races in Manitou Springs Colorado


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Emma Crawford Coffin Races in Manitou Springs Colorado

Off the Beaten Path

With perfectly curated Instagram photos at music festivals like Coachella and Stagecoach consistently flooding your feed, you might get the idea that festivals are reserved for spending hours planning your outfits and partying with your friends while listening to live music. But if you’re looking for something a little more offbeat to experience, there are plenty of head-scratching festivals you can attend, from coffin races to a cow chip throwing competition, here are some of the wackiest events around the nation. Let us know if you know of any others in the comment section.

Related: 78 Weird Tourist Attractions Across America

Roadkill Cook-Off
Roadkill Cook-Off by Emmett Unlimetted (CC BY-NC)

Roadkill Cook-Off

Marlinton, West Virginia

Have you ever driven by a flattened raccoon on the side of the road with flies swirling around it and thought, “Ooh, that looks appetizing!” No? Well, then this event might not be the one for you. While the ingredients used for this cook-off aren’t actually supposed to be roadkill, chefs are supposed to use the meat of animals that are sometimes found, well, dead on the side of the road. Attendees visit the different booths and sample dishes like biscuits with squirrel gravy and snapping turtle stew. Participants can’t pre-cook their meat, but they are required to bring it already skinned and cleaned. The winner takes home $1,200 and is selected by a panel of judges who “have been tested for cast-iron stomachs and have sworn under oath to have no vegetarian tendencies,” according to the event’s rules.

Related: Bucket List Destinations for Foodies

Emma Crawford Coffin Race & Parade, Manitou Springs, Colorado

The Emma Crawford Coffin Races ​and Festival

Manitou Springs, Colorado

According to legend, in 1889, a woman named Emma Crawford, who was dying from tuberculosis, came to Manitou Springs in Colorado because she thought the effervescent mineral springs and crisp air would help heal her. Alas, she ended up succumbing to her illness, but not before she requested to be buried at the peak of Red Mountain — a wish her lover honored with the assistance of some townspeople who helped him carry her coffin up the mountain’s slope to bury it near the summit. Come 1929, following several harsh winters and plenty of rain, her coffin was naturally unearthed and raced back down the mountain. Some children discovered a few of her bones, the handles to the casket, and her nameplate, but the rest was nowhere to be found. To honor Crawford’s memory and love of Manitou Springs, the town began holding a festival in 1955 complete with coffin races and participants dressed like ghosts, ghouls, and skeletons.

Related: Circus World and Other Weird Museums Across America and Beyond

space dog
space dog by Mookie Forcella (CC BY-NC)

UFO Festival

Roswell, New Mexico

In 1947, an event referred to as the “Roswell incident” caused quite the stir in the U.S. when the Roswell Army Air Field issued a press release revealing that some Army Air Forces officers recovered a “flying disc.” The Army then swiftly retracted their statement, correcting it to say that the object they discovered was a conventional weather balloon, but that didn’t stop the widespread conspiracy theories. Now synonymous with UFOs, Roswell hosts a festival each year on the anniversary of the incident riddled with activities like an alien crawl, a UFO sky watch, an alien walk, and glow-in-the-dark miniature golf.

Related: Out-of-This-World Things to Do in Roswell, New Mexico on UFO Day

Mothman Festival
Mothman Festival by Sonja (CC BY)

Mothman Festival

Point Pleasant, West Virginia

It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s — Mothman? Joining the likes of other festivals based on creepy legends, the Mothman Festival’s origins date back to 1966 when the first claimed sightings of a red-eyed, winged insect-human hybrid occurred. If you like putting yourself in real-life horror movie scenarios, you can take bus tours during the festival and the spot where the original sightings reportedly took place, plus you can explore the goosebump-inducing ammunition bunkers found there.

Underwater rock and roll

Underwater Music Festival

Looe Key Reef, Florida

Sebastian hit the nail on the head when he sang, “Life under the sea is better than anything they got up there,” in “The Little Mermaid” — at least according to this real-life under-the-sea event. Divers and music lovers alike can enjoy this underwater concert at Florida’s Looe Key Reef, which is part of the only living coral barrier reef in North America. At the festival, a playlist of ocean-themed songs like The Beatles’ “Yellow Submarine” and Jimmy Buffett’s “Fins” is live-streamed through underwater speakers. Adding to the allure are divers who play made-up instruments like the “trom-bonefish” and the “Fluke-a-Lele.” 

Duct Tape Festival
Duct Tape Festival by Rona Proudfoot (CC BY)

Duck Tape Festival

Avon, Ohio

Most of us know at least one person who holds firm to their belief that duct tape can fix anything. As the most well-known brand of this particular sticky solution, naturally Duck Tape warrants its own three-day festival. If you’re wondering what you’ll see at this event, well, there’s a seemingly never-ending amount of duct tape creations ranging from crafts put together on-site and life-sized animals made entirely out of the go-to adhesive to a Duck Tape Fashion Show for some 50,000 participants to gush over.

Mike the Headless Chicken Fest
Wikipedia Commons

Mike the Headless Chicken Fest

Fruita, Colorado

The year was 1945 in Fruita, Colorado, when Lloyd Olsen headed out to his flock of chickens to bring in a rooster for dinner. Delivering a blow with his ax to what he thought was the perfect position to save the neck for his mother-in-law to enjoy, Olsen was alarmed when the rooster carried on with business as usual after losing his head. The story goes, the next morning, upon finding Mike the rooster sleeping with his used-to-be head under his wing, Olsen decided he would find a way to help the miraculous bird continue living. So, he fed and watered him with an eyedropper and Mike was able to live an entire 18 months headless. During that time, the rooster set out on a national tour as “The Headless Wonder Chicken.” After his death, his spirit has continued to stay very much alive through a two-day festival every June that includes chicken-wing and Peep-eating contests. We dare you not to think of Mike the next time you hear someone use the idiom “like a chicken with its head cut off.”

Food Insects: Worm insect or Chrysalis Silkworm fried for eating as food items on fork and in salad vegetable, it is good source rich of protein edible for future. Entomophagy concept.


Raleigh, North Carolina

Dung ball races, scarab beetle battles, and earthworm exhibits abound at this festival that dives into the world of arthropods. The event offers more than 100 activities for attendees and spotlights a different type of terrestrial species each year. If bugs give you the heebie jeebies, you’ll want to stay away from this one, but if you’re into that sort of thing, you can head to BugFest and interact with all kinds of creepy crawlers, entomologists, and other scientists. 

Wisconsin Cow Chip Festival
Wisconsin Cow Chip Festival by Marc Buehler (CC BY-NC)

Wisconsin State Cow Chip Throw & Festival

Prairie du Sac, Wisconsin

Do you scrunch your nose up in disgust when you pass by a cattle farm on a hot day? Just think: There are people in Wisconsin who are so comfortable with cow feces that they will not only touch it, they have an entire festival dedicated to throwing it competitively — with their bare hands! And the festival doesn’t just include one “cow chip” throw, the event has competitions for kids, adults, and teams, so everyone can get their hands dirty.

Epiphany Day celebrations

Frozen Dead Guy Days


In perhaps the most straightforwardly named festival on this roundup, the inspiration behind this event was none other than an actual frozen dead guy. Norwegian Trygve Bauge brought his recently deceased grandfather Bredo Morstøl’s dry ice-preserved body to California in 1989, where it was stored in liquid nitrogen until 1993, when his corpse was returned to dry ice and moved to Nederland, Colorado, where Bauge and his mother, Aud, intended to create their own cryonics facility. In the meantime, after Bauge was deported due to an expired visa, Aud kept her father’s cryogenically frozen body in a shack behind her house. Eventually, after living in an unfurnished home with no plumbing or electricity (which went against local ordinances), Aud was evicted and had to tell court officials about her father’s body, fearing it would thaw out if no one maintained it. The incident sparked new laws in the town about keeping dead bodies, but it also inspired the Frozen Dead Guy Days festival. Visitors of the March event can participate in coffin races, a polar plunge, frozen turkey bowling, and tours of the shed that the corpse is still preserved in.

Twins Festival
Twins Festival by Anirudh Koul (CC BY-NC)

Twins Festival

Twinsburg, Ohio

This festival will have you doing double-takes left and right. Everywhere you look, you’ll see sets of twins, both identical and fraternal, some dressed alike and some not. There aren’t really stipulations for participants, but the event includes a parade, a twins volleyball tournament, and a talent show for twins sure to leave you with double vision.

Related: 30 Strange But Surprisingly Tasty Local Foods to Try

Testicle Festival
Testicle Festival by Aquistbe (CC BY-NC-ND)

Testicle Festival

Deerfield, Michigan

While this sounds pretty gross, the center of this event is actually considered a delicacy. That’s right, this entire festival revolves around Rocky Mountain oysters: a dish typically made with bull testicles, although sheep, bison, and pig can also be used. At this particular festival, the testicles are deep fried and served with cocktail sauce, plus you get chicken gizzards, baked beans, coleslaw, and a dinner roll on the side. People come from all over the state and some even travel from other states and wait in line for an hour or more to have a ball indulging in these off-the-wall dishes.

San Fermin in Nueva Orleans

San Fermin in Nueva Orleans

New Orleans

New Orleans’ own take on the famous San Fermin Festival in Pamplona, Spain, highlights roller derby skaters from around the world rather than bulls. Basically, a huge crowd of roller derby skaters dressed like bulls skate around with wiffle bats chasing runners — just your average, run-of-the-mill event.

Related: 21 Bucket List Experiences for Adrenaline Junkies