Americans love an excuse to celebrate and over-indulge, whether the occasion is Thanksgiving, the Super Bowl or a local Oktoberfest. It’s like they need to get a group together and eat as much food and drink as possible to really mark an occasion. A bit like us Brits really. It’s why food festivals hold such a place in most Americans’ hearts—even when the food festival is pure strange. If you’re after a novel eating experience, and you’re planning on a trip to the USA sometime in the future, here are five of the strangest food festivals in the United States to plan your trip around
Waikiki Spam Jam
If you ever needed a gimmicky reason to travel to the American paradise known as Hawaii, the Waikiki Spam Jam should fit the bill nicely. Because of the scarcity of meat during World War II, Hawaiians developed a true love for Spam. The Spam Jam celebrates that love with a street festival that features hula dancers, the crowning of a Mr. and Miss Spam, as well as competitions for the development of new Spam recipes. Eat spam burgers and spam sushi to your heart’s content, and feel philanthropic while you do it since all the proceeds benefit Hawaii Food Bank.
Gilroy Garlic Festival
Located in Gilroy, California, this annual festival has been celebrating the pleasing pungency of garlic since 1978. Gilroy has long been one of the largest garlic producers in the world, so it’s fitting that they should host one of the world’s best garlic festivals (yes, there are others). From garlic recipe contests and cook-offs to Gourmet Alley, where you can sample garlic fare like garlic bread, garlic popcorn, and garlic ice cream, the Gilroy Garlic Festival really does celebrate all things garlic.
You and your family can enjoy cooking demonstrations, live music, a Children’s Area with crafts and games, and a bona fide arts and crafts fair that occasionally deviates from the theme. While you may be the subject of some passive negativity from your in-flight seatmates on the plane ride back home due to how happily you stink of garlic, if you’re a garlic lover, this festival makes for a perfect excuse to travel for a weekend to sunny California.
RC Cola and Moonpie Festival
Two beloved Southern treats — RC Cola and the Moonpie — are heralded every year in Bell Buckle, Tennessee. The festival kicks off with a 10-mile fun run that’s open to all ages, and throughout the celebration, contests, clog dancing, and the cutting of the world’s largest Moonpie combine to make for a truly memorable experience.
The contests are particularly fascinating, with awards given to the oldest person in attendance, the youngest person in attendance, and the family who travelled the farthest to get to Bell Buckle. There’s also a Moonpie toss and a genuine watermelon seed spitting contest. The RC Dash forces contestants to balance a full, open can of RC on their heads in a race, while round two of the dash requires two, full RC Cola cans survive the trip. Food vendors and arts and crafts round it all out, and make for a great reason to book a flight to Tennessee.
While Whiting, Indiana, may seem like an unlikely place for a fantastic food festival, the city’s inhabitants’ love affair with the Eastern European dumpling known as the pierogi turns this small town into a veritable dumpling feast every summer during Pierogi Fest. Pierogis are filled with everything from pork and potatoes to cheese and berries, and while you’ll get plenty of opportunities to eat them, the festival offers plenty more. The Polka Parade will impress you with its lawnmower drill team’s ability to maneuver with military precision, and Mr. Pierogi — a singing, dancing pierogi who routinely makes the rounds at the festival — will make you feel more than welcome.
Annual Yuma Lettuce Days
Yuma, Arizona, is proudly known as the “Winter Lettuce Capital of the World,” and they’ve certainly earned it. The town and surrounding area produces almost $2 billion of Arizona’s entire agricultural revenue, and roughly 90 percent of North America’s winter vegetables come from the area. For lettuce lovers looking to escape the cold, this winter festival boasts lettuce sculptures, cooking contests, cabbage bowling, and the world’s largest salad.
So, take a trip with food in mind. Whether you head to Whiting, Indiana, or Waikiki, these wacky food festivals are sure to give you a vacation unlike any you’ve experienced before.