There must be something about the temperature rising that makes regular Americans do some pretty weird things during the summer months. Here is a selection of some of the most unique homegrown festivals and events worthy of a visit this season.
Great Wisconsin Cheese Festival; Little Chute, WI (June 3 - 5, 2005)
Wisconsin's passionate football followers are lovingly referred to as cheeseheads, but you don't have to be a sports fan to cheese it up this June.
As the dairy capital of America, the Wisconsin town of Little Chute hosts the annual Great Wisconsin Cheese Festival. I could add some cheesy line here about milking this event for all that it's worth but instead, here are a few of the festival's highlights.
Not for the lactose intolerant, we have the Model Your Own Milk Moustache contest, the Big Cheese parade, the cheese curd eating contest (the first to guzzle down a half-pound is the victor), the cheesecake competition and the cheese-carving sculpture contest (using a 40-pound block of cheddar). Last year's sculpture carving competition saw a Republican elephant and a Democratic donkey take the first prize -- a fitting result during an election year. Visitors are encouraged to participate in a variety of events and can be called upon to help with the judging.
Now in its 17th successful year, admission prices are $4 for adults and $2 for children for a weekend pass.
For more information visit www.littlechutewi.org/calendar_events/cheesefest.html.
Redneck Games; East Dublin, GA (July 2, 2005)
Held the first Saturday of each July, the Redneck Games are the inspiration of local radio station, WQZY -- originally designed to spoof the 1996 Summer Olympic Games in Atlanta. Little did they know that they were starting an annual tradition that would attract thousands of visitors each year.
Nothing is taken seriously here and far from being derogatory, the Games are intended to be a self-deprecating celebration of all things redneck and a glowing tribute to white trash everywhere.
The opening event of the day is the O'Conee River Redneck Raft Race, which features a flotilla of homemade rafts from constructed from unusual objects. Previous winners included an entry that used the front porch of a trailer as the raft. The official Redneck Games opening ceremony begins with the traditional running of the propane torch and the lighting of the ceremonial barbecue pit. The afternoon schedule features grueling competitions like dumpster diving and the bobbing for pig's feet. Not to be outdone is the watermelon seed spitting, hubcap hurling, bug zapping by spitball, armpit serenading and big-hair contest. The tournament highlight is the mud pit belly flop where contestants, usually weighing in excess of 250 pounds, dive belly-first into a pool of red clay mud -- the winner receives a crushed and mounted Bud Light trophy.
This exceptional day, when the temperatures generally soar well above 100°F, takes place at Buckeye Park along the banks of the Oconee River. By the end of the festivities most participants and visitors end up in the river to cool off. Dress code is no shoes or shirts required. Mullet hairdos, tattoos and missing teeth are encouraged. Admission is free but parking is $5 per car. Gates open at 11am and the Games start at 12pm.
For further information telephone 800/688-0096 or visit www.wqzy.com.
Miss Crustacean Hermit Crab Beauty Contest; Ocean City, NJ (August 3, 2005)
Three "must see" events take place on the shore of New Jersey's Ocean City on August 3 this year. The sand-sculpting competition is visually interesting and brings out some of the areas greatest craftsmen, but the highlight of the day must certainly be the Miss Crustacean Beauty Contest and Crab Race.
Ocean City's two-mile boardwalk is transformed into a crab couture catwalk as visitors vie for the best views of the most fashionable claws, dressed to the nines (or should I say the tens) in ornate costumes. Up to 50 hermit crabs compete in this cutthroat competition, but gender isn't important as past winners have included male crabs.
Following the contest, the best-dressed crab crowned Miss Crustacean takes a walk of honor along the runway and may also compete in the Cucumber Rind Cup, a fast-paced and ruthless race where the winner receives the cup containing obviously, cucumber rinds, which are apparently crab delicacies.
The 6th Street Beach is the venue for these awe-inspiring events, now in their 30th year. The festivities begin at 9am, with Miss Crustacean at 1pm and the race at 1.30pm. Best of all, this fun is free of charge.
For more information regarding this unique maritime mayhem visit www.oceancity-nj.com/calendar.asp?id=8&y=2005.
Elvis Week; Memphis, TN (August 8 - 16, 2005)
The King may have left the building some 28 years ago, but his presence is alive and well in Memphis, especially during Elvis week -- seven days of celebration and commemoration that culminates on August 16, the day of Elvis's death in 1977. Graceland, Elvis's home and living memorial, opens its door to the public for an entire week of festivities.
Elvis fans of all ages congregate in Memphis from all walks of life and from countries throughout the world. They come together to pay homage to the man who changed the face of contemporary music and whose influence can still be felt today.
Elvis week combines musical events, dances, recreational activities, social and charitable events. Annual events include a candlelight vigil, the Elvis Presley International 5km run benefiting cerebral palsy research, gospel brunches, a 1950s-themed Elvis dance party, live entertainment in Graceland Plaza and Graceland Crossing and an Elvis art contest and exhibition. There is also a scavenger hunt, Elvis-inspired city tours and an Elvis film festival. If attending Elvis Week, you may want to stay at the Heartbreak Hotel (tel. 877/777-0606; www.elvis.com/epheartbreakhotel/default.asp). Regular guest rooms are priced from $99 double occupancy and suites start at $115. Larger themed suites are priced from $500 and can accommodate up to eight people.
For ticket prices and a full schedule of activities during Elvis week visit www.elvis.com.