It’s not difficult to find a harvest festival or other autumnal celebration during the fall months, but have you heard of some of the more eccentric festivals held around the same time?
Several of the United States’ most peculiar festivals are held annually in the fall. While they may not have traditional fall attractions like hayrides or pumpkin patches, they make up for it with their own exciting competitions and displays.
From New York and Wisconsin to Arizona and Utah, these weird festivals across the United States are great events to visit for a uniquely fun experience. While most of these have already passed this year, it’s never too early to start planning for travel in 2024.
The strangest fall festivals in America
Ranchers in Cedar City, Utah, have herded their sheep down from the mountains to graze in the valleys every fall since 1870, according to the festival’s website. Nowadays, officials block roads through the city to ensure the sheep’s safety, and the parade is only one event in a weekend-long festival.
While the Sheep Parade is the highlight of the festival, you can also enjoy rodeo events, presentations of individual sheep, a quilt show and a Dutch oven cooking contest.
If you’re looking to ward off vampires, this is the place for you. First held in 1989 in Hudson Valley, New York, as a promotional event for a local garlic grower, it has blossomed into a two-day festival celebrating all things garlic.
You can participate in garlic-themed activities, visit a chef demo or lecture, buy different varieties of garlic or try a garlicky treat from one of the hundreds of food vendors selling things from garlic bread to garlic ice cream.
If you were the kind of kid who enjoyed hunting for beetles and was never afraid of spiders, you’ll love BugFest, which its website calls the “biggest, buggiest event of the year.”
Hosted by the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, BugFest includes exhibits, learning opportunities, activities and crafts designed to teach people about bug life. If you’re a foodie, make sure to attend the “Critter Cook-off,” in which local chefs compete to make the best meals incorporating actual bugs.
First weekend in September
This is not to be confused with Shriekfest, a film festival honoring all things horror. No, Shrekfest is a festival celebrating the beloved 2001 DreamWorks animated film “Shrek,” and it draws thousands to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, per the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Visitors can participate in a roar contest, onion-eating contest and costume contest, although if raw onions aren’t your favorite, other food vendors are available as well. Of course, the festival wouldn’t be complete without a screening of “Shrek” to end things.
For an experience that combines food with education, visit this festival celebrating all things mushrooms in Fairhope, Alabama. There are workshops, lectures, foraging walks and cooking demonstrations along with food and craft vendors.
A similar festival, the Georgia Mushroom Festival, is held in late September.
Third weekend in October
The woolly worm, also known as the Isabella tiger moth, draws thousands to the town of Banner Elk, North Carolina, each year to forecast the winter weather. The main attraction is the woolly worm race, in which contestants place their worms on hanging strings and see which worm inches its way to the top first. The winning worm is then inspected for its color, which foretells the weather for the coming winter, according to local folklore.
Attendees can also enjoy a parade, farmers market and corn hole tournament, according to local ABC affiliate WLOS.
Labor Day weekend
Dried cow dung, also known as cow chips, has been used as kindling for fire for centuries, and tossing them around for sport became popularized in the 1970s, according to this festival’s website. The sport thrives at this festival, where visitors can compete in a cow chip throw to see who can throw them the farthest.
If you’d rather not lay your hands directly on cow poop, you can also participate in the festival’s 5K and 10K or, watch the Tournament of Chips Parade, visit the vendor fair or listen to live music.