Fun-d Raising Festivals

I’m still trying to find a way for our church to raise money. I believe hosting a festival of some sort would have two very positive results. First, it would bring in cash to support our various ministries. Second, it would provide opportunities for many of our members to get more involved. In my book, fellowship is just as important as stewardship.

So, after digging through the Internet, here are some of the festivals I’ve found. While some are tempting to try to recreate, I think we need to be original in whatever we do. These festivals – which are rather ‘off the wall’ – are only meant to get our brainstorming juices flowing.

Some people either have too much time on their hands or are just plain weird. In my search for the perfect fund raising event, I decided to see if Georgia was the only state with festivals devoted to unusual pastimes. It could be argued that we Georgians are simply celebrating our history and culture when we hold the Mountain Moonshine Festival in Dawsonville and The Redneck Games in East Dublin.

Every October since 1968, the brewers of white lightning and their hot rod driving deliverymen have come out of the hollows of the north Georgia mountains to showcase their equipment and demonstrate their traditional craftsmanship. I guess it’s no different than the people who show off their expertise at cooking pork rinds and boiling peanuts, or the folks who make dulcimers and cedar shake shingles using nothing but hand tools. If painters and potters have craft fairs, why not bootleggers?

The Redneck Games are a different story. This event – begun in 1996 to coincide with the Atlanta Olympic games – includes events such as the Mud-Pit Belly Flop, the Hubcap Hurl, and the Dumpster Dive. The one event I really don’t care to see is the Bobbing for Pigs Feet. This event is described as similar to bobbing for apples. The main differences are: unlike apples, pig’s feet don’t float (especially when they’re frozen and uncooked), and the water in the “bucket” is shoulder deep. One of the more popular events is the Armpit Serenade. Jeff Foxworthy might thoroughly enjoy this festival, but it doesn’t do much to showcase southern culture. (Or maybe it does too much!)

After learning about the Redneck Games, I had to assure myself that Georgia wasn’t the only state to host such outrageous events. I searched the Internet and quickly discovered a web site that included “America-Bizarro Articles” which listed, by state, more oddball festivals than you could fling a fruitcake at.

Yes. That’s right. Manitou Springs, Colorado is the home of the Great Fruitcake Toss. Held every first week in January since 1995 people come from miles around to hurl the fruitcakes they received for Christmas. (We can only hope that none of the projectiles were manufactured in Georgia.)

An event that could easily be compared to our Redneck Games is the Bean Fest and Great Championship Outhouse Race held each October in Mountain View, Arkansas. I don’t know when this festival began or how it originated, but it is described as follows: “About thirty two-person teams compete in one of the world’s only bean cook-offs. The beans, water, kettles, and fire are provided by the Mountain View Chamber of Commerce. Each team must provide its own secret herbs and spices. While the chefs wait to hear the results of the contest, the crowd sucks down over 1,000 pounds of beans and a wagon full of cornbread. Nothing follows beans better than an outhouse. But these outhouses are not for doing the dirty deed. These outhouses are decorated, mounted on wheels, and raced through the middle of town. The added edge of not wanting to be downwind of any racer makes the atmosphere extremely competitive.” I think that’s enough said about this festival.

Moving on to another state, Oatman, Arizona takes advantage of its hot summer days by hosting an Egg Frying Contest. Every July 4th, this town of around 160 people invites folks to enjoy the 106 degree sunny days by frying eggs on the sidewalk. About 1,500 people show up to witness this event. They are joined by any number of egg-loving wild burrows that have a habit of disrupting the cooks. The goal of the contestants is to cook an egg in fifteen minutes or less.

Leave it to the folks in Hacienda Heights, California to come up with the American Fancy Rat and Mouse Annual Show. In 1983 this town decided that lovers of rats and mice wanted to be taken seriously so they created a festival for them. The American Fancy Rat and Mouse Association (AFRMA) also holds shows in other towns in California and may have moved this festival to Rialto. Check before you go so you don’t show up in the wrong town.

Closer to home one could drive south to Pensacola, Florida to witness, or participate in, the Interstate Mullet Toss. According to the sponsors of this festival, there’s an art to throwing a mullet – which is not a bad haircut, but a bottom-feeding fish that is considered useless. Every April since 1984, folks have been trying to discover the finer points of this “art”. Each contestant pays an entry fee for the honor of tossing a 1½-pound fish. Since the event is held near the Florida/Alabama border, I suppose the object is to throw the fish from Florida to Alabama. If fish flinging is not your cup of tea, you can always enter, or watch, the Ms. Mullet Bikini Contest, a Wet T-shirt Contest, a Hiney (butt) Contest, play Volleyball, Skeet Shoot, try your hand at a Keg Toss, or listen at your choice of three bandstands. There’s also 17 bar stations. “Nobody goes without a cold beer or drink in their hand.” Is it any wonder?

Coming back to Georgia, we can’t overlook The Dukes of Hazzard Fan Club Convention held each July since 1998 in Covington or other towns throughout the country.  This convention is described as a little unorganized, so make sure you write or email to confirm dates and locations.

One of the most bizarre festivals listed on the web site is the Turkey Testicle Festival held each October in Byron, Illinois. This one started in 1979 (before its big brother, The Testicle Festival featuring Rocky Mountain Oysters in Bozeman, Montana) and sees attendees consume almost 300 pounds of turkey “nuggets” each year.

Speaking of strange things to eat, every September, Marlington, West Virginia hosts the Road kill Cook-Off. If you want to participate, be aware of the official rules. The animal you cook must be one commonly found dead on the side of the road (possum, beaver, raccoon, snake, deer, etc.). However, the animal you use must not actually come from the side of the road. That’s the official rules. The question is, does anybody actually check?

Finally, a festival that certainly has me scratching my head and wondering just how bored can some people get, we head back to West Virginia. The International Water Tasting Contest is held each February (since 1990) in Berkeley Springs. A dozen judges made up of news media from around the country sip international waters in three categories: municipal, non-carbonated bottled and sparkling. Judges test water for clarity, smell, taste and aftertaste. Wow. The excitement must be overwhelming.

There are so many other exciting events, but not enough space to list them all. The ones I’d hate to miss include the International Rotten Sneaker Contest in Vermont, the Belly Dance and Swiss Singing and Yodeling Festivals in Utah (do Mormons belly dance and yodel?), and the Spamarama in Texas. Too bad I don’t have the time to visit them all. But I’m too busy trying to think of a weird festival to start right here in Cumming.

Any suggestions? Remember, our church is a Lutheran church. If you’ve ever listened to the Prairie Home Companion, you know we are a rather conservative group.

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