The World's Most Unusual Food Festivals Slideshow
July 1, 2013
From messy to mysterious, these atypical food festivals are one-of-a-kind
Orange Battle — Ivrea, Italy
In the small town of Ivrea in northern Italy, brave souls strap on their helmets and head out to the main square ready for a battle: a battle with oranges, that is. This three-day-long symbolic event takes places just before Ash Wednesday. The battle pays homage to the insurrection against the Holy Roman Empire that took place in 1194. Participants either team up on carts (representing the tyrant guards) or join hundreds on foot as rebellious commoners. Everyone who plays comes away with a significant amount of bruising, but the victory of the common folk is well worth it.
Roadkill Cook-Off — Marlinton, W. Va.
Do you ever see a dead raccoon on the side of the road and think, "Man, that looks good!"? If you answered yes to that question, then this festival is for you. Locals in Pocahontas County poke fun at the stereotypes by adding a Roadkill Cook-Off to their Autumn Harvest Festival. Actual roadkill isn’t used in any of the dishes, but the competition requires that the main ingredient must be a critter commonly found flattened on the side of the road. That means you may find anything from groundhogs to opossum, deer, rabbits, squirrels, and snakes. Squirrel gravy over biscuits anyone?
Clean Monday Flour War — Galaxidi, Greece
Songkran Festival — Thailand
If you were into water balloon fights growing up, then get ready for one of the greatest surprises of your adult life. To kick off the Thai New Year, Thailand locals take to the streets for an all-out water-soaked battle in the Songkran Festival. With all the water guns, water balloons, and buckets of water being dumped from above, no one is dry. However, since the festival coincides with Thailand’s hottest season, having cool water thrown in your face might be a welcome respite.
Shepherds’ Shemozzle — Hunterville, New Zealand
"Shemozzle" is Yiddish for a confused situation. But, in New Zealand, "shemozzle" is used to refer to a crazy obstacle course, the most famous being Shepherds’ Shemozzle in Hunterville. The Hunterville Festival starts the day with a dog barking competition followed by the Shemozzle race, where participants and their dogs run a cross-country course while eating atypical foods like raw eggs, sheep’s eye and cream, and huhu — New Zealand’s largest native beetle.
Batalla del Vino — Haro, Spain
Every year on June 29 in the heart of La Rioja, Spain, the Batalla del Vino takes place. What began as a medieval dispute over a mountain range between neighboring towns has evolved into a celebration with hundreds of Spaniards soaking each other by any means possible. Traditionally dressed in all white except for a red bandana, they proceed to pour gallons of the area’s famous red wine until everyone is stained purple and undoubtedly tipsy.
World Black Pudding Throwing Championships — Ramsbottom, England
Despite the name, there isn’t actually any pudding thrown in this contest… at least not as most Americans know it. The ancient rivalry between Yorkshire and Lancashire is played out annually at the World Black Pudding Throwing Championships by hurling black pudding — a type of sausage — at Yorkshire pudding, an English dish made from batter and usually served with roast meat and gravy. Because who doesn’t love trying to knock stuff down by hurling sausages?
Cheese-Rolling — Copper’s Hill, Britain
Wikimedia Commons/Dave Farrance
The cheese-rolling festival is definitely one of the more unique food festivals around. Here's how it works: On top of an incredibly steep hill stand several large wheels of cheese. Competitors race to catch their wheel of cheese as it rolls down the hill with a one-second head start. The hill is so steep that the cheese can reach speeds of up to 70 miles per hour!
Rocky Mountain Oyster Festival — Throckmorton, Texas
Don’t expect to find any seafood here; some of you may have already guessed, but the Rocky Mountain Oyster Festival is actually a testicle festival. Cow testicles are considered a delicacy by many and Texans show their appreciation in a cook-off to see who can make the best "calf fries" aka mountain oysters.
La Tomatina — Bruñol, Spain
In Italy, they throw oranges. In Spain, they throw tomatoes. On the last Wednesday of August, bring your gloves and goggles and get rid of any pent-up aggression by throwing tomatoes at complete strangers for an hour. The fight can’t begin until someone manages to climb a two-story-high greased pole and throw down the ham sitting at the top. After that, it's every person for themselves in the world’s biggest food fight.
SPAM Jam Festival — Waikiki, Hawaii
Hawaiians love SPAM. In fact, more than 7 million cans of the pink meat are consumed in Hawaii every year. SPAM Jam brings together SPAM lovers and celebrates the "spiced ham" that became popular during the meat scarcity of WWII. If you haven’t tasted it yet, you might consider it —but be warned, it might not be what you expect.
Night of the Radishes — Oaxaca, Mexico
Here is another food festival where the main goal isn’t actually eating. Night of the Radishes is celebrated every year on Dec. 23, and radishes are specially grown for the event and kept in the ground past harvest season so they develop a strange shape and become unusually large. The unusual sculptures that are created using the radishes make it worth a trip.