Funny Food Festivals
Agri-tourism is an
important new trend in travel. Taken in its broadest form it is a means
promoting any agricultural, aqui-cultural or ranching enterprise in an
One form of agri-tourism has been going
on for a long time. Local food festivals are a way a town or area
promotes and brags about its favorite local agricultural product.
I have gathered a few of the most
unusual festivals of this kind.
of towns have festivals celebrating the local food favorite but only one
that I could find has a festival celebrating a pest. The
Boll Weevil Festival
in Enterprise Alabama recognized the boll weevil that decimated Alabama
and other southern states cotton crops in the early 20th century. But
all clouds have a silver lining and this pesky insect caused farmers to
diversify and grow more food crops such as, peanuts, corn and
livestock. The town of Enterprise recognized this as a positive step in
the state's agricultural growth and in 1919 they erected the world's
only monument to an agricultural pest, the boll weevil, recognizing it
as a "herald of prosperity."
of the primary crops that benefited from the switch from cotton to food
products was corn. In the South, one of the best uses of corn is grits.
The World Grits Festival
held annually in St. George, South Carolina honors this beloved side
dish. For you Northerners who have never tasted it, this is a wonderful
way to sample the many faces of grits. It's not just a breakfast side
dish. No, it can be fried, baked, mixed with cheese and my all time
favorite cooked with cheese, tomato pieces and topped with crumbled
bacon. The imagination is the only limit when it comes to great ways to
County, Georgia in the early days was famous for two suburb products
that came in a mason jar. Only one was legal, the rich sorghum syrup
that served as a sweetener for the isolated mountain folks. Blairsville,
Georgia is the site of the sweetest festival in the country,
The Sorghum Festival.
Sorghum making is almost a lost art today but in pioneer times, sorghum
was the upland South's answer to sugar cane. In the mountains of
Georgia, every village and many of the farms had a mill for producing
the thick sweet syrup similar to molasses. Today, there are less than
Blairsville and Union County celebrate the
unique sweetener with a no holds barred festival on the last three
weekends of October. A highlight of the festival is the production of
sorghum. The stripped cane is run through a grinder turned by mule
power. The syrup is then cooked in a huge open trough, filtered and
bottled before your eyes.
One of the favorite contest is the Biscuit
Eating Contest. Each contest must swipe the biscuit through sorghum then
devour it. The winner usually shovels down forty to fifty in fifteen
minutes. Other contests include pole climbing, log sawing, rock throwing
and horseshoe throwing. Arts and crafts common to the Appalachian folks
are produced before your eyes. Entertainment is provided by
bluegrass bands, cloggers and gospel bands.
The festival parade is held downtown on the
first Saturday of the festival. The revelers and floats are decorated in
"old time' motif. Bands, horseback riders and costumed marchers add to
the flavor. Everyone of them are throwing candy to you as fast as they
" src="AT_Pawpaw_Cd_fest.jpg" style="float: right" width="319">Another
Appalachian product is honored with the
Ohio Pawpaw Festival
held each September in Albany, Ohio.
The pawpaw (Asimina triloba) is North America's largest native tree
fruit. Its range extends somewhat beyond the Appalachian area but
Albany in Southern Ohio claims to be home to some of the biggest and
best wild pawpaw patches anywhere. The fruit has a wonderful creamy
texture and a tropical flavor. It's high in nutrients and was reputed
to be George Washington's favorite dessert
The annual Pawpaw Cook-off at the festival
proves it is not just a dessert. Some of the past winners have used it
in chili, wings, barbeque sauce and even a Pawpaw pizza.
On Saturday the
festival admits your best friend and even has activities for the four
legged guests. Of course us humans are invited to take part in all sort
of activities ranging from pawpaw eating contests to the Double Nickel
Bicycle Ride, a 55-mile road ride that starts and ends at the festival
and wends through Zaleski State Forest. It's fun and food and who can
ask for a better combination.
Moving further South in
both location and food choice you can visit the
Chitlin' Strut honoring chitterlings
that is held in Salley, South Carolina. For those of you who have never
met a chitterling, they are.. well, there is no delicate way to put it.
They are pig intestines. Now before you run for the nearest toilet bowl
yelling "yuck!" give them a try. After all, thousands of people attend
this festival on the Saturday after Thanksgiving and consume tones of
these fried delicacies.
It's a great family affair. Pets are welcome but
I might think twice about taking my pet pig to this event.
Besides eating chitterlings, you can enjoy a
parade, beauty pageant, carnival rides, and a Chitlin Strut Idol Contest
as well as a --you guessed it-- a hawg-calling contest.
may think chitterlings are strange things to eat but it gets even
stranger. How about testicals. Yup. there are several festivals
commemorating those little balls of flavor. The
Rocky Mountain Oyster Festival and St.
Patrick's Day Parade in Virginia City,
Nevada, held on the Saturday after S. Patrick's Day, typically draws an
average of 3,000 people with about 12,000 tastes of the delicacy de jure
also known as "cowboy caviar", "Montana tendergroins", "dusted nuts",
"bull fries" or "swinging beef." The tasting is held in the parking lot
next to the appropriately named "Bucket of Blood."
Virginia City is not
alone in its unique cuisine. Throckmorton, Texas has its
Rocky Mountain Oyster Festival
Clinton, Montana has its
the end of July and first of August.
Of course, mammals aren't the only weird
Fellsmere Frogleg Festival
is Florida's entry for the weird and wonderful category. The festival
began in 1990 as an effort to raise money for children's recreational
facilities. That first festival sold around 400 frog leg dinners and was
thrilled. Today the festival draws around 80,000 people as sells about
Besides the frog legs, visitors enjoy over 100
arts and crafts booths, a rodeo, live entertainment, mechanical bull
riding instructions and a host of other fun activities. It is held
annually in January.
birth state of Louisiana
is known for its swamps so it's only natural they
enjoy some strange delicacies from the water.
began in 1984 as a two-day street festival in downtown Shreveport as an
answer to all the critics who accused Shreveport of "being more like
Texas than Louisiana." This festival honoring Louisiana's favorite
shellfish proves the critics wrong. Mudbug Madness is now one of
Louisiana's largest and most popular Cajun festivals. Besides the
crawfish (natives call them "crawfish" not "crayfish") you will be
overwhelmed with choices of mouth-watering Cajun cuisine and
bouncing along to the sound of Cajun, Zydeco, Blues and Jazz artists.
The festival has become a four-day extravaganza each Memorial Day
weekend. It has achieved national recognition as one of the
Southeast Tourism Society's Top 20 Events, drawing as many as 56,000
people in one day.
Three stages of top-notch entertainment will be
performing. There are crawfish eating contests for all ages. This year
in honor of the festival's 30th anniversary, they are having a special
fireworks show. It's more fun than a barrel of well... crawfish.
you think of Louisiana, there is one other animal that comes to mind,
the toothy, scaly alligator. Naturally, there is the
Alligator Festival honoring this
Louisiana critter and the succulent meat found in its tail. If you
haven't tried it, don't knock it. It really taste better than chicken.
The Rotary Club of St. Charles Parish, Louisiana
began the event in Lulling 33 years ago as their first fundraiser.
The Club wanted a long term project that would
reflect the ideals and goals of Rotary International.
1980, one of the members of the Club, Archie Mollere, was on the
He donated his salary from the School
Board, $ 250.00, to the Club to use it to award a Scholarship to a
Senior from one of the two Public High Schools.
Also, another member, Bob Becker, was
VP of Rathborne Land Co. and managed their properties.
Some of the properties he managed was
swamp land and filled with all kinds of nature's creatures.
At that time, the alligator was being
taken off the endangered species list.
and Bob came up with the idea to have an Alligator Festival and hold it
during alligator hunting season in September.
The first Alligator Festival was held on part
of the Irons driving range at the Willowdale Country Club.
It soon out grew the driving range and the
Festival was moved to the grounds at Our Lady of the Holy Rosary
Catholic Church in Hahnville.
In 1985, the Alligator Festival moved
again to a site on Hwy 90 in Boutte and then next moved across the
street. When Walmart was built, the Alligator Festival moved in 2000 to
its present site; St. Charles Parish's Dept. of Recreation's Westbank
Bridge Park under the Mississippi River's I-310 Hale Boggs Bridge.
Now, on the last full
weekend in September, thousands of visitors from all over converge on
the little town of Lulling to enjoy the festival.
project which the festival funds, and the one the members are most proud
of, is awarding scholarships to the local graduating high school
seniors. The club has awarded scholarships up to this time in excess of
is the largest private scholarship provider to local high school seniors
in St. Charles parish.
Each section is run by one of
the members aided by volunteers who are members, wives, husbands,
children and friends.
Aside from many different recipes
of alligator, you will feast on lots of other Cajun food and be
entertained by live music. For the athletically inclined, there is an
Alligator Stomp Fun Run
or you can go
two weeks before the festival
and catch the
Alligator Festival Golf Tournament.
course, you can't go to Louisiana and not sample boudin. It's a sausage
made from pork and rice and other ingredients stuffed into a casing. The
original boudin contained pig blood but today, it is mostly the boudin
blanc which doesn't contain the blood. Scott, Louisiana bills itself as
"The Boudin Capital of the World." They have started a annual
to honor this Cajun food. However, Lafayette, who holds an annual
Boudin Cookoff disputes the title as
does Broussard, 12 miles to the southeast of Scott. Broussard
formerly held the Boudin Capital of the World title they say lawmakers
gave them in the late 1970s. They used to host a boudin Festival and
crown a Boudin King but no longer do so. Well, my money's on the town
that holds the festival.
That's just a sampling of unusual food festivals
celebrating their local culinary favorite. Check around and I bet you
will find a lot more. What a fun way to try some new dishes and meet
some great local people.
Thanks to Lulling Alligator Festival,
Shreveport Mudbug Madness, Ohio Pawpaw Festival, World Grits Festival,
Fellsmer Frogleg Festival, South Carolina Department of
Parks, Recreation & Tourism and Virginia City CVB for
use of their images.