The World’s Weirdest Food-Sporting Events
August 5, 2011
The popularity of this food-sport reaches far beyond whatever you’re thinking. If the book, Pie in the Sky: the Authorized History of Punkin Chunkin’ isn’t enough to convince you, perhaps 2010’s multi-part show on Discovery’s Science Channel (one of its highest rated shows ever) will drive the point home. People just love (and excel at) building machines that will chuck pumpkins as high and far as possible. This year’s Chunk runs November 4 – 6 and will air on the Science Channel yet again.
Olive Oil Wrestling
Next time someone asks you what the national sport of Turkey is, you can now tell them: oil wrestling. Wrestlers wear outfits called “kisbets,” but are more notably covered head-to-toe in olive oil. And while it is not yet an Olympic sport (we’ll keep you posted if it pops up on the London 2012 schedule), the rules and ranking system are detailed and very involved. Each match is called by watching for which player’s “umbilicus is exposed to heaven” first. That guy loses.
It’s not hard to understand why this food-sport is so loved on wineries and at festivals from coast to coast. The winner (okay, and all of-age participants) gets wine! And while the process of making wine moved on from stomping long ago, visitors to wineries and festival goers line up to try their hand (er, foot) at “I Love Lucy”-style stomping. There are plenty of contests and events across the country, particularly with harvest season starting again next month, but some favorites are the Oregon Grape Stomp Championship, the World Championships in Sonoma, and Texas Hill Country’s grape stomping events.
Can and Carton Regattas
Australians love beer (or so the Foster’s ads told us) and, it turns out, they also love milk. And in a creative display of sustainability and recycling, they thought of a way to make sure every part of those beer cans and milk cartons get used — milk carton and beer can regattas. Milk cartons are used in Adelaide and beer cans in Darwin, but the principles remain very similar. Boats can come in any shape or size, but they must be made entirely out of either milk cartons or beer cans.
Take a round of Double Gloucester cheese, walk to the top of Cooper’s Hill (near Gloucester in the Cotswalds), set it off down the hill, and then throw yourself to the ground and roll after it. First one to the bottom wins the race, the wheel of cheese, and the glory. The event has been a tradition for over 200 years and to this day is run come rain, shine, or official cancellations. 2010 and 2011 races were organized by “rebels” who couldn’t bear the thought of a cheese-rolling-less year.
The day before Lent should be a day of over-indulging in all the things you’re giving up for the next 40 days. And in Liberal, Kansas over-indulging means pancake racing. The people of Kansas compete against their counterparts in Olney, England by running down the streets of each town, flipping pancakes — often in wild costumes. At the moment, in the head-to-head, Kansas is winning, though throughout the contest's long history the lead has switched back and forth often.
World Series of Beer Pong
No longer limited to college kids taking advantage of moving miles away from home, beer pong is a nationally recognized sport — with a World Series and everything. Held in Las Vegas and offering a grand prize of $50,000, the World Series of Beer Pong is a serious event with serious rules that, well… just mirror the game we all played as college students. Take rule H, part 1 (“The Dips#%t Not Paying Attention Rule”) for example: If team #1 knocks over one of their cups, they lose that cup unless team #2 is likewise full of not-paying-attention dips%#ts and don’t notice. Then, the game proceeds like nothing happened.
Tossing kegs is not for the faint of heart. One of the events that determine who is crowned the World’s Strongest Man, the keg increases in weight as the competition goes on and must be tossed over a 14-foot wall. The Las Vegas version of keg tossing, though, is less… intense. It’s held in combination with the official Las Vegas St. Patrick’s Day celebrations that also include beer pong and potato and cabbage eating contests.
Giant Pumpkin Regatta
Ever since Cinderella made riding in a pumpkin seem so chic and Prince-winning, people have been trying to turn enormous pumpkins into transportation vessels. As a result, giant pumpkin regattas are now held from coast to coast in which grown adults carve all the fillings out of truly life-size pumpkins (sometimes using the top as a “helmet”) and paddle their way, inside the pumpkin, down a body of water. There are much-loved competitions in Vermont along Lake Champlain, in Elk Grove, Calif., and Windsor, Canada.
Stinging Nettle Eating
In what sounds like something out of “Fear Factor” more than a British pastime, thousands upon thousands of Brits flock to Dorset every year for the Stinging Nettle Eating competition. What started in the mid-1980’s as a way to settle a dispute between two local farmers now sees upwards of 50 people (gluttons for punishment, really) compete by eating as many raw, prickly stinging nettle leaves off of a 20-inch stalk as possible. The techniques vary, but the competitors’ pained faces are consistent throughout.