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10 Weird and Wonderful Festivals in the USA

by Lorna Wallace
fact checked by Darci Heikkinen

The USA is home to some well-known and popular festivals in the world. From Burning Man in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert to Mardis Gras in New Orleans, these events draw millions of people each year. But America is also home to a few slightly more unusual festivals that may not be world renowned but can be just as fun and interesting. Here are 10 of the strangest festivals held in the States you can enjoy on your next trip.

Related: 10 Weird And Wonderful British Festivals

10 Avon Heritage Duck Tape Festival, Ohio

Duck Tape Festival returns after two years of cancellations

Every DIYer knows that if something is supposed to move but doesn’t, then WD-40 is the solution, and if something is moving but shouldn’t be, then duct tape is the answer. Each year over Father’s Day weekend, the greatness of duct tape is celebrated with a festival in Avon, Ohio, which is home to the headquarters of Shurtape Technologies, which makes Duck Tape—one of the most popular duct tape brands.

The event includes many things familiar to festivals, such as carnival rides and live music. But of course, Duck Tape also has a starring role. There are massive sculptures made from Duck Tape, a parade with Duck Tape floats, and a fashion show where participants wear an outfit crafted from the product. If you’re passionate about adhesive, then Avon is the place to go. Sadly, a WD-40 festival doesn’t exist—at least not yet.[1]

9 Mike the Headless Chicken Festival, Colorado


Back in 1945, Lloyd Olsen chopped the head off of a chicken that was supposed to be for dinner. But despite losing its head, the bird—later known as Mike—didn’t die and continued to walk around trying (and failing) to peck things. The blade had missed the chicken’s jugular vein, and a blood clot prevented him from bleeding out. Most of his brain stem, which controls the majority of a chicken’s reflexes, had also been spared. With the help of food and water being delivered via an eyedropper, Mike lived for the next 18 months, gaining fame by touring the country as “The Headless Wonder Chicken.”

Since 1999, Mike’s hometown of Fruita, Colorado, has celebrated his life with an annual festival called Mike the Headless Chicken Fest during the first week of June. Two of the main events at the festival aren’t particularly chicken-themed: a 5K race and a disc golf tournament, but there is also a poultry show and a chicken wing eating competition.[2]

8 Spam Jam, Hawaii

Spam Jam this weekend in Waikiki

Spam is a pretty divisive meat product around the world, but Hawaiians can’t get enough of it. Per capita, Hawaii is the U.S. state with the highest consumption of Spam, with around 7 million cans of the processed pork being eaten a year. It’s so beloved that there’s even a festival called Spam Jam dedicated to it.

Thousands of Spam lovers descend on Waikiki at the end of April each year. Spam is cooked up in a variety of ways, from Spam corn chowder to Spam pizza. There are also options for those with a sweet tooth, such as Spam flan. Hormel, who makes the meat, even sends ambassadors to the event: Sir Can-A-Lot and Spammy. The event is also used to collect money and food donations for the Hawaii Food Bank—of course, many cans of Spam are donated.[3]

7 Underwater Music Festival, Florida

Underwater Music Festival Spotlights Coral Reef Protection

For a music festival with a difference, head to the Lower Keys in Florida, which plays host to an Underwater Music Festival. Held at Looe Key Reef, festival co-founder Bill Becker explains that the festival encourages people to both enjoy and look after the coral reef. “The more people realize what’s down there and enjoy it, the more they’re likely to protect it,” he says.

As divers swim through the beautiful fish-filled reef, they’re treated to water-themed musical selections. Songs like “Yellow Submarine” by The Beatles and “Fins” by Jimmy Buffett are pumped into the water by speakers on the underside of boats. Divers often dress up in fun costumes, and they can even pose with artistic instruments, such as a “baratuba” and a “clambourine.”[4]

6 Frozen Dead Guy Days, Colorado


Colorado’s Frozen Dead Guy Days Festival was created in 2002 to celebrate Bredo Morstoel, a dead man whose frozen body is stored in the town of Nederland. Festival-goers can participate in a coffin race, a hearse parade, and a frozen T-shirt contest, among other death and ice-related activities during the March festival.

The story goes that Bredo died in Norway in 1989 and was put on dry ice to be shipped to his grandson, Trygve Bauge, in the USA, where he was cryogenically frozen. Bredo’s corpse was then kept in a shed by Trygve, but when he was deported for overstaying his visa, the storage of the frozen dead relative was passed on to his mother, Aud.

When the town council found out that a dead guy was being kept in a shed, they made it illegal to store “the whole or any part of the person, body, or carcass of a human being or animal or other biological species which is not alive upon any property.” However, thanks to a grandfather clause, an allowance was made for Grandpa Bredo.

Bo Shaffer, coincidentally known as “The Iceman,” is currently responsible for keeping Bredo frozen via dry ice. However, his body may soon be moved to The Stanley Hotel (which happens to be Stephen King’s inspiration for the Overlook Hotel in The Shining), as the festival now takes place in nearby Estes Park after John Cullen, the Stanley’s proprietor, took over the event.[5]

5 Blobfest, Pennsylvania

2022 Blobfest Runout Sci-Fi Movie Reenactment At The The Colonial Theatre In Phoenixville, PA

One of the most iconic scenes in the 1958 sci-fi horror The Blob is when the eponymous Blob oozes into the Colonial Theater, causing a hoard of moviegoers to flee the cinema in panic. Fans of the movie can head to Phoenixville, Pennsylvania, to celebrate The Blob over the course of a 3-day festival in July, the highlight of which is a re-enactment of the cinema fleeing scene at the Colonial Theater. Tickets to participate in the run-out itself go fast, but many people gather on the street to watch the short but scream-filled stampede.

As well as the run-out re-enactment, there are plenty of other Blob-themed events to enjoy over the weekend. There are screenings of monster movies, a Blob Ball for lovers of swing dance, a short film contest, a street fair, and a costume contest.[6]

4 Roadkill Cook-Off, West Virginia

Could You Handle The Road Kill Cook-Off? | Kind Of A Big Deal | Ep 4

In Marlinton, West Virginia, part of the Autumn Harvest Festival includes a Roadkill Cook-Off. Amateur chefs cook up dishes featuring animals that are often found as roadkill and compete for cash prizes, with $1,200 going to the winner. The meat used isn’t actually found on the side of the road—not usually, anyway.

Some of the meals are made with familiar meats, such as rabbit and venison, but many of the dishes are rather more unusual. For those wanting to be adventurous with their choices, the menu in previous years has included black bear stew and iguana tacos. Other options include squirrel, frog, armadillo, possum, and raccoon, all cooked in a variety of ways.

“The whole thing is tongue and [sic] cheek,” according to Ed Blackford, who has participated in the festival for many years. “It’s a stab at what other Americans think of us West Virginians. They call us rednecks, but that can be a compliment down here. This is about having fun. It’s about economic rejuvenation.”[7]

3 Shrekfest, Wisconsin

I Survived a Shrek Festival

Shrekfest, a festival that celebrates the 2001 animated movie Shrek, started out as a joke online but quickly became a reality offline. “It was a fake Facebook event that my friends and I stumbled upon,” says Grant Duffrin, one of the festival’s co-founders. “We were really excited to go to it, and then we found out it wasn’t a real event.” Instead of accepting the disappointment and moving on, Duffrin and his friends decided to organize the festival themselves.

The first Shrekfest was a modest event held in 2014 at a park in Madison. However, due to its growing popularity over the years, it was moved to Milwaukee in 2022. There’s Shrek-themed food and live music, a costume contest, a roar competition, a stomach-churning onion eating contest, and, of course, a screening of the movie.[8]

2 Burning of Zozobra, New Mexico

Each year on the Friday of Labor Day weekend, a terrifying 50-foot (15-meter) tall marionette is burned in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The event heralds the beginning of Fiestas de Santa Fe, and the 2023 burning will be the 99th one that has taken place. Artist Will Shuster created and burned the first Zozobra (then only 6 feet tall) for a private party in his garden in 1924 after being inspired by the ceremonial burning of an effigy of Judas by the Yaqui Indians.

Since that first burning, the event has grown in scale, and Zozobra, whose name in Spanish means “anguish, anxiety, or gloom,” has grown in height. Also known as Old Man Gloom, Zozobra’s arms and head are moveable, making him one of the largest functioning marionettes in the world. He’s made of wood, wire, and cloth and is stuffed with paper, including documents such as divorce papers and traffic tickets. The idea is to take anything that has caused misery over the year and set it alight.[9]

1 Cow Chip Throw and Festival, Wisconsin

Cow Chip Throw Festival: Chips Happen

Another festival that takes place over Labor Day weekend is Wisconsin’s Cow Chip Throw and Festival. The festival includes live music, a parade, a fun run, and an arts & crafts fair, but the main attraction is the cow chip throw. There are a few rules to throwing the dried cow feces, such as no gloves being allowed. People are also advised to lick their fingers before throwing in order to get a better grip. Since 1991, Greg Neumaier has held the record for the farthest throw, coming in at an impressive 248 feet (75.6 meters).

The Cow Chip Throw started as a commemoration of the first pioneers burning the chips for heat in the harsh winters. It also inspired a similar event held on the state line between Florida and Alabama, but instead of cow pats, mullet fish are thrown. Joe Gilchrist, the owner of the Flora-Bama beach bar, saw the cow chip flinging event and wanted to create something similar to boost business during the colder season. He picked mullet because it’s indigenous to the area, and thus, the Flora-Bama Mullet Toss was born.[10]

fact checked by Darci Heikkinen