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© Lumberjack World Championships / Netz
© Lumberjack World Championships / Netz

America’s Most Unusual Festivals and Events

Picture of Julia Goicochea
Updated: 30 January 2018

A place as unique as America calls for originality always, especially when it comes to the country’s celebrations and gatherings. From the sort of strange to the just plain bizarre, here are America’s most unusual festivals and events.

Lebowski Fest

It’s no secret that Americans love pop culture, and nowhere is that more apparent than at Lebowski Fest. The Coen brothers classic The Big Lebowski is the inspiration behind this Kentucky event, where The Dude lookalikes enjoy a film screening, unlimited bowling, a costume contest, and, of course, White Russians. The beloved Louisville fest will abide once more on July 20–21, 2018, marking its 17th installation.

Gilroy Garlic Festival

Leave your diet plans (and fear of bad breath) at the door at California’s Gilroy Garlic Festival. Exclusively California-grown garlic is the star of this three-day affair, featuring a live cook-off, a garlic-braiding workshop, a “Garli-Cue BBQ Challenge,” and even a “Miss Gilroy Garlic” competition. The fest knows you’re mostly there for the eats, however, and dishes such as garlic bread, garlic steak tacos, and free garlic ice cream don’t disappoint.

Frozen Dead Guy Days

Part morbid memorial, part extreme entertainment, and entirely unmissable, Colorado’s Frozen Dead Guy Days are sure to heat up your late winter plans. Enjoy coffin races, costumed polar plunges, icy turkey bowling, and even a frozen T-shirt contest at this frosty fest celebrating Norwegian man Grandpa Bredo Morstoel, who died in 1989.

Underwater Music Festival

The country’s capital of unusual goings-on, Florida is home to America’s premier Underwater Music Festival. Keys radio station US1 Radio 104.1 FM invites song-loving scuba divers (costumes are encouraged!) to catch a concert in a coral reef, where songs like “Yellow Submarine” are broadcast underwater.

UFO Festival

Out-of-this-world fun awaits believers and skeptics alike at New Mexico’s UFO Festival. Held in the city of Roswell, an area famous for its UFO activity, this inter-terrestrial event features tours of the local UFO Museum, a parade, and more meaty offerings such as talks by guest speakers and authors.

National Hollerin’ Contest

Thought Americans couldn’t get any louder? North Carolina’s 49-year-old National Hollerin’ Contest invites you to think again—and to try some shouting for yourself. Started in 1969, this loud, long-running event (which includes a BBQ and live music) is dedicated to preserving a near-extinct form of communication. Tip: Act fast if you want to hear, we mean, see, this event for yourself—September 8, 2018, may mark the contest’s final installment.

Lumberjack World Championships

Where did the image of the brawny, flannel-sporting all-American originate? We’re not sure, but Wisconsin’s Lumberjack World Championships are keeping it alive. This international competition comprises sawing, chopping, log rolling, and more outdoorsy challenges in order to name the world’s best lumberjack.

Humungus Fungus Fest

Entering its 28th year, Michigan’s Humungus Fungus Fest has become one of the most unexpected foodie events in America. People come from all over to celebrate the world’s largest, oldest living organism, a 200,000-pound shoestring mushroom occupying 38 acres of land and dating back anywhere from 1,500 to 10,000 years. Naturally, shrooms are at the center of this three-day fest featuring a mushroom Swiss burger grill-out, a “Mr. Fungi ‘Beard’y Pageant,” and the largest mushroom pizza on record.

Groundhog Day

Every February 2nd, tens of thousands of people gather and millions tune into television broadcasts hoping to secure a glimpse of—a groundhog? This quirky custom dates back to the first Groundhog Day in 1887 when “Punxsutawney Phil” (or more accurately, Phil’s shadow) was first used to predict seasonal shifts. That’s right: Groundhog Day is an event in which millions of Americans turn to a woodchuck for their weather forecast.

World’s Ugliest Dog Contest

At the World’s Ugliest Dog Contest, it’s what’s inside that counts. Here, all of man’s best friends (some of which are in need of a forever home!) are invited to strut their stuff in a Red Carpet Walk and Faux Paw Fashion Show in this celebration of inner-beauty.