From food fights to fetishes, festivals around the globe are held in honor of the edible. Here are ten of the world’s weirdest, most wonderful and most absolutely delicious food festivals.
With around 45,000 participants chucking over 250,000 pounds of tomatoes at each other, La Tomatina is like the world’s largest cafeteria food fight. La Tomatina is the culmination of a week-long festival in Buñol and starts with a greased pole climb. Once the ham at the top of the pole is reached, participants begin to throw crushed tomatoes at each other across the Plaza del Pueblo. Though it might sound messy, after fire trucks hose down the square (and the players), the cobblestones are left squeaky-clean due to the tomatoes’ acid.
Marlinton, West Virginia, USA
Don’t worry – no actual roadkill was harmed in the making of this festival. Though the eponymous cook-off in West Virginia features animals more often found on the side of the road rather than the soup pot (think armadillo, ‘possum and roadrunner), both the Food and Travel Channels have covered the event. Feast on boar nachos, bear BBQ, squirrel fried rice and porcupine skewers, but know that if roadkill isn’t your scene, there’s plenty of classic fair fare to keep you from going hungry.
Since you rarely need to give the Germans much of an excuse to drink beer, it should come as no surprise that Munich is home to one of the most famous beer festivals of all time, Oktoberfest. From late September to the first weekend in October, more than six million people from around the world crowd into this Bavarian town to guzzle Oktoberfest Beer (around 7 million liters of it!) and nosh on classic German fare such as grilled ham hock, sausages, spätzle noodles with cheese, sauerkraut, pretzels and dumplings.
Waikiki SPAM Jam
Waikiki, Hawaii, USA
There’s no more fitting home for the SPAM Jam than Hawaii, the state which consumes more cans of SPAM – around 7 million per year – than any other state in the country. You can expect classic SPAM standards prepared by local chefs, like SPAM and eggs or crispy fried SPAM rolls. However, the SPAM Jam isn’t just for chowing down – cans of SPAM are collected to benefit the Hawaii Food Bank.
Whiting, Indiana, USA
The Polish weren’t just content to settle in Whiting, Indiana – they had to create an annual festival in honor of Poland’s most famous food, the pierogi. For three whole days in late July, the Pierogi Festival takes over 119th Street with food booths featuring Eastern European fare, live bands, a beer garden and carnival rides. The women dress up like their bushas, or grandmothers, in curlers, headscarves and nightgowns as they dance the polka in a street parade led by Mr. Pierogi and other Polish food characters. And of course, there are plenty of pierogis, both boiled and fried, filled with potato and cheese, mushroom, sauerkraut or meat and topped with onions and butter.
Chinchilla Melon Festival
In the melon capital of Australia, there are usually a few surplus melons to throw around. So once every two years, Chinchilla hosts the Melon Festival, a messy-sweet and high-energy event featuring all things watermelon. Try your hand at seed spitting, melon skiing (like water skiing but with melons for skis), melon iron man and of course, melon tossing. For the less athletically inclined, there’s also a parade, markets, a poets’ breakfast, free concerts and crafts.
Isle of Wight, England
Better clear your calendar the day after the Garlic Festival on the Isle of Wight. This pungent event features tasty, niche treats like fudge, ice cream and beer all infused with the flavor of garlic. Try the Isle of Wight’s famous Golden Clove Garlic as well as its oak-smoked cousin. If you’re still wary, keep in mind that this stinky event comes with a good cause, raising money for over 65 charities.
Hokitika Wild Food Festival
Locations throughout New Zealand
Fear Factor meets gourmet cooking at the Hokitika Wild Food Festival in New Zealand. Chocolate covered huhu grubs, seagull eggs, magpie pies and “mountain oysters” (colloquially, sheep’s testicles) are just some of the fine fare on offer. Of course, for the less wild of palate, there are tasty dishes highlighting some of New Zealand’s excellent bounty, from home-cured bacon to rhubarb sparkling wine.
Maine Lobster Festival
Rockland, Maine, USA
If you’ve ever wanted to try lobster ice cream, here’s your chance. The Maine Lobster Festival serves something like 20,000 pounds of lobster in every shape and form, from lobster rolls to steamed with fresh, melting butter and yes, lobster ice cream. This small-town festival also features a lobster crate race, where participants see who can run the farthest across a bridge of half-sunk lobster crates, as well as carnival rides and a craft fair.
The Battle of the Oranges
You might want to wear some battle armor for this Italian food fight. During the Carnival celebration in Ivrea, thousands of townspeople dressed in colorful costumes split into nine teams and throw oranges at each other for the three days leading up to the night of Fat Tuesday. At the end of the battle, a funeral procession wanders through the town and the “General” closes the event with the saying, “We’ll see each other on Thursday at one,” meaning the next year’s Carnival start.