If you’re getting the “been there, done that” reactions from your kids when you suggest for the umpteenth time that the family should go on the same family road trip, perhaps it’s time to bring something new to the table. Roadside attractions are fun but take them to one of these wacky festival events and you’ll be making memories for a lifetime—most of them good ones. Keep reading to see our favorites.
Oatman Sidewalk Egg Frying Contest – Oatman, AZ (Jul. 4)
You may not be aware of the town Oatman, Arizona which is home to about 150 people, but the sidewalks in town get mighty crowded on the fourth of July when the town holds its annual sidewalk egg frying contest. Contestants with use anything from aluminum foil to magnifying glasses to fry a regular chicken egg right on the sidewalk during one of the hottest days of the year. Each team is given two eggs and 15 minutes to cook them up. Prizes are given to the youngest contestant, absolute showmanship, best costume, best cooking contraption and the contestant who has traveled the furthest to compete.
Roswell UFO Festival – Roswell, NM (July 6)
Known as the UFO capital of the world, Roswell will welcome aliens of all sorts to their town, where the little green men (and women) can partake in all kinds of adventures: the Alien Chase, Alien Costume Contests, UFO Crash Site Tour, the XCEL Energy UFO Festival Light Parade, tours of the Robert H. Goddard Planetarium and fairly normal events like a car show and a singing contest. Special UFO-ologists will be speaking as well, and of course, there will be lots of alien swag to pick up.
Wayne Chicken Show — Wayne, NE (July 13-15)
Why did the chicken cross the road? To be a part of the world’s largest chicken dance of course. The dance is just one of the festivities at the Wayne Chicken Show. Other events include the 5K Chicken Run, the Cement Chickens art show, an Omelet Feed, the National Cluck-Off, Hard Boiled Egg Eating Contest, Best Chicken Legs Contest, Rubber Chicken Chuck, Egg Toss and the Egg Sling Shot. Lots of “Cluck-tibles” to be found here too. Live music, great food and possibly an appearance by the Chickendales dancers. (Yes, it’s a real thing and totally PG).
Seafair Milk Carton Derby – Seattle, WA (July 14)
One of the oddest yet beloved events of Seattle’s Seafair is the annual Milk Carton Derby. Since 1972, everyday people have been creating (hopefully) sea-worthy vessels made from former cartons of milk to race for a chance of victory and bragging rights. Every year, about 100 boats are created (and most of them float too) to compete in races upon Green Lake. Various food trucks and freebies are available for crowd watchers.
Ice Cream Festival in Austin, TX (July 23)
For every ticket purchases for the Ice Cream Festival, you’ll get one sample from the 25 different frozen treat which ads up to rough 2.5 pints. Totally worth getting a brain freeze for. Mom and dad will appreciate the “Boozy Treats” available too. Of course, there will be the headache-inducing Ice Cream Eating Contest for kids and the Milkshake Throw Down where local bartenders go head to head to create the best frozen cocktail.
Gilroy Garlic Festival — Gilroy, CA (July 27-29)
This year marks the 40th anniversary of the Gilroy Garlic Festival, which is hosted by thousands of volunteers and much of the proceeds go to various charities so it’s a win-win! There's lots of live entertainment, cooking demonstrations by some of the biggest names in chefdom as well as lots of activities for the kidlets, but the real reason to come to this shindig is the food. Where else can you find garlic steak tacos, garlic mustards, beer-battered garlic fries, garlic edamame, meat and garlic quesadillas, garlic kettle corn and of course garlic ice cream? It’s truly the place to “eat, drink and stink.”
Festival of Fools, Burlington, VT – (August 3-5)
The 11th annual Festival of Fools in Burlington presents a growing list of endless laughs and entertainment with world-class street performers, comedians and musicians. Among the long list of performers, you’ll see acts performed by groups like The Kif Kif Sisters, Just for Kicks and Alakazam, “The Human Knot.” Many of the events are free making this trip worth driving to.
Caseville Cheeseburger Festival - Caseville, MI (Aug. 10-19)
The folks in Michigan like to think their Jimmy Buffet and cheeseburger festival is a little slice of paradise. Sample a little Midwest "island life" where every summer the locals transform the town into "Key North, Michigan" for a week. Get the kids' sand buckets out and start practicing early for the intense sandcastle-making contest. Sample cheeseburgers of all kinds and settle down in the evening for laser shows on the beach while listening to (what else?) island-inspired music!
Pittston Tomato Festival – Pittston, PA (Aug. 16-19)
Sure, you’ll find lots of delicious tomato-based food dishes at the Pittston Tomato Festival. You’d expect that. You’ll also find a parade, a 5K run and even the “Little Mr. and Miss Tomato” contest. You might expect that too. But would you expect tomato fights? Get a feel for what it must be like to compete in Banul, Spain. For $10, you’ll get a pair of protective eye goggles and all the rotten tomatoes you can chuck. Participants must be age 15 or older, but younger kids will get a kick out of watching the mayhem. T-shirts are an extra $10. The best part, all of the proceeds goes to local charities. If you go, be sure to pack along a lot of wet wipes.
Cow Chip Throw Festival – Prairie du Sac, WI (Aug 31-Sept 1)
Cow chip is another (wacky) way to say cow dung, and that’s not the craziest part of this Wisconsin State Festival. The fact that over 40,000 people show up every year for the Tournament of Chips Parade—which has unbelievable paper-mache floats like a Cow Chip Factory, and a Trojan Cow—has gotta make you wonder. Get in line for the namesake Great Chip Chuckin’ Contest and don't forget to look for the sanitizer (no gloves allowed and licking hands for better grip is recommended!).
Bugfest – Raleigh, NC (Sept 15)
Didn't make it as a finalist on Survivor? Show your friends you still have what it takes by braving buggy dishes made by local chefs. Dig deeper into the insect world with a class on how to keep your own beehive or attend a flea circus at this North Carolina gathering. You may even catch a glimpse of a few giant bugs (costumes, of course) wandering around. Mental note: check the pockets of all the kiddo's clothes before doing laundry!
Lowville Cream Cheese Festival - Lowville, NY (Sept. 17)
If you can't pile your bagel high enough with cream cheese in the mornings, you may need to schedule a little road trip to Lowville, NY where the dairy dream is the talk of the town. Celebrate the spread by painting with cream cheese, practice batting (with balls made of cream cheese, of course!) grabbing a slice of the world's largest cheesecake, or just spend your weekend the usual way and tip a few cows on this wacky day.
—Jeffrey Totey & Bethany Jordan