Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

Bugs, Spam and, er, testicles: These are the world's weirdest food festivals

By Daisy Carrington, for CNN
updated 9:32 AM EDT, Tue August 20, 2013
A one-day insect festival sponsored by the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, Bugfest attracts 25,000 visitors a year and serves up a range of creepy, crawly dishes. This year's festival theme is scorpions.
A one-day insect festival sponsored by the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, Bugfest attracts 25,000 visitors a year and serves up a range of creepy, crawly dishes. This year's festival theme is scorpions.
HIDE CAPTION
Bugfest
Monkey buffet
Turnip fest
Pancake Day
Potato wrestling
An ode to beer
Giant omelette
Road-kill grill
Spam Jam
Cheese race
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Hawaii is America's largest consumer of Spam. No wonder they host the annual Spam Jam.
  • In the U.S., there are food festivals dedicated to bugs and fried testicles.
  • Food wrestling is a theme at several celebrations, including Potato Days.
  • AT Räbechilbi in Switzerland, turnips are turned into works of art.

(CNN) -- Humans have a strange relationship with food. This seems to be a global truth that is perhaps best evidenced by the array of unusual food festivals the world over. We don't merely celebrate food, we wrestle in it, wage war with it, idolize it, and, in Gloucestershire, England, race it down a steep hill.

No matter what your favorite food is, chances are somewhere, large gatherings of aficionados have found some outlandish way to commemorate it. Even Spam has found a place of honor.

"Hawaii is one of the biggest consumers of Spam in the world," explains Karen Winpenny, an organizer of the annual Waikiki Spam Jam, which last year had 25,000 visitors. Hormel Foods sells more product in Hawaii per person than in any other U.S. state. According to the Spam Jam website, almost seven million cans of the stuff are eaten in Hawaii every year.

The festival's dozen or so vendors demonstrate the meat-product's unexpected versatility.

"This year, we had Spam cheesecake and Spam ice cream. In the past, we've had Spam ravioli, Spam kotsu, Spam poki, Spam French fries -- pretty much everything can be made with Spam," says Winpenny.

Foods represented at festivals can range from the more mundane -- melons, pumpkins, potatoes -- to the downright daring. In West Virginia, locals are keen to celebrate a local delicacy -- road kill. Last week saw the kick off of Clinton, MT's Testy Festy, a celebration of Rocky Mountain Oysters, aka bull testicles. Next month, adventurous eaters can sample scorpions at Bugfest in North Carolina.

This year, we had Spam cheesecake and Spam ice cream. Everything can be made with Spam.
Karen Winpenny, Waikiki Spam Jam

However, there are times when imbibing our favorite foods is not enough. Sometimes, it seems, making a mess is the only way to do it justice. Several festivals demand participants get dirty. La Tomatina -- where thousands travel to Spain to engage in a bustling tomato fight -- is perhaps the most famous of these, though there are many instances in which festival-goers feel the need to rollick around in grub.

On August 23, Barnesville, Minnesota, will celebrate Potato Days, an annual two-day festival dedicated to the humble tuber. No matter how many activities the organizers introduce, however, the most popular remains the mashed potato wrestling competition.

"It's quite a sight to watch people wrestling around in mashed potatoes," admits Theresa Olson, the festival's executive director. "Afterward, they find mashed potato everywhere."

The festival started in 1951 as a source of post-harvest entertainment. Back then, the activities were limited to a potato picking contest for the men, and a peeling competition for the women. Since then, it's matured, and events include a cook-off, a mashed potato sculpting contest and a potato sack fashion show.

Read more: The world's messiest festivals

"It's often voted one of the best festivals in America, partly because it's family friendly, and it's free," says Olson.

In some instances, culinary celebrations act as a historic link. In Bessieres, France, the townspeople make a giant omelet every Easter to feed the poor, a tradition that supposedly started when Napoleon and his army stopped in the town for the night. Legend has it that The Little Corporal ordered the villagers to gather all their eggs to make an omelet for his army.

The celebration has since spread to French-speaking communities across the globe. In Abbeville, Louisiana, the town launched their own version of the tradition (albeit with a Creole twist).

[The wrestlers] find mashed potato everywhere.
Theresa Olson, Potato Days

"It's grown to seven cities throughout the world, and we each add a local ingredient," says Arlene White, the third Grand Maitre of Abbeville's Giant Omelette Celebration. The town uses 5,000 eggs, and adds Tabasco and crayfish to make it their own.

While there are many who would argue that food is art, some regions take this line of thinking to a new level. At the Räbechilbi Turnip Festival in Switzerland, for instance, locals create elaborate floats using 40 tons of hallowed out turnips. In the past, they've created replicas of panthers, windmills, ships, whales -- even Amy Winehouse. Though the tiny town of Richterswil houses a meager 12,000 residents, the festival attracts 20,000 visitors each year.

"We're a small village, so you can imagine how crowded it gets," says Michèle Fasler, a spokeswoman for Räbechilbi.

Fasler describes the atmosphere as warm and peaceful. Just don't eat the turnips, she warns.

"It's not good for your stomach," she says. "It's like eating too much beans."

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 6:42 AM EST, Mon December 2, 2013
No matter the time of year, or place, a bounty of vegetables is often all it takes to get people singing, dancing, cow racing -- even parading around giant phalluses.
updated 2:06 PM EDT, Fri November 1, 2013
Fireworks boom, bulbs flash, and flames flicker as tens of millions of people across the globe celebrate the beginning of the Festival of Lights.
updated 7:53 AM EDT, Thu October 31, 2013
halloween costume no eyes
Still think Halloween is just for the kids? You won't -- not when you've seen CNN's gut-twisting, down-right disgusting mob of morbid maniacs.
updated 5:42 AM EDT, Fri November 1, 2013
Our list of doomed sites include a haunted school, political prisons and an abandoned hospital. No...we wouldn't go in there either!
updated 6:46 AM EDT, Thu October 31, 2013
Catch the best Halloween costumes from tinseltown featuring Heidi Klum, Jimmy Kimmel, Ellen DeGeneres, Miley Cyrus and all their A-list friends.
updated 1:18 PM EDT, Mon October 21, 2013
There are still many places in the world that treat magic as serious business. Check out our guide to the world's witchiest hotspots.
updated 10:07 AM EDT, Mon October 14, 2013
The best photos of the eighth and annual gathering of geeks in the city that never sleeps. The sold out event allowed fans to mingle with stars.
updated 9:44 AM EDT, Wed October 9, 2013
When animals come together en masse, very often so do humans. Here's our guide to the animal migrations that bring people out in flocks.
updated 2:26 AM EDT, Fri September 20, 2013
Surviving the all-day drinking sessions of highly potent wheat beer at the (in)famous Oktoberfest in Munich is marathon, not a sprint.
updated 1:42 PM EDT, Fri September 13, 2013
For one weekend in September more than 155 million people in six neighboring countries across Central America pull out all the stops to honor the birth of their nations.
updated 8:23 AM EDT, Wed August 28, 2013
Some hobbies take genuine talent, others just don't, but the real skill is turning your weird past-time into an international event.
updated 1:59 PM EDT, Fri August 9, 2013
For Muslims, Eid al-Fitr is one of the most festive periods in the religion's calendar. We asked you to send us your best Eid photos, here are your best shots.
updated 6:46 AM EDT, Thu August 8, 2013
Award-winning British chef Aktar Islam shares his best Eid food memories. Find out what culinary delights are on his table.
updated 9:32 AM EDT, Tue August 20, 2013
Humans have a strange relationship with food. This seems to be a global truth that is perhaps best evidenced by the array of unusual food festivals the world over.
updated 6:42 AM EDT, Tue July 2, 2013
Each year, proponents of the healing powers of mud (and those that just like to getting down in the dirt) descend on Daecheon Beach in South Korea for the annual Boryeong Mud Festival. Last year, 2.6 million people participated, many diving in to the mud marathon, mud wrestling, and several other mud-related activities on offer.
There is something innately messy about summer. That must be why some of the world's filthiest festivals bide their time until the warmer months.
updated 5:14 AM EDT, Fri August 9, 2013
From Bastille Day and 4th July to Chinese New Year and Disney Land, your shots of the world's greatest fireworks.
updated 9:49 AM EDT, Mon June 23, 2014
We asked you to send us your best solstice photos. From skinny dipping, fire jumping and dancing like a rocket -- here are your best shots.
updated 5:53 AM EDT, Mon June 17, 2013
Linked to fertility -- both of the vegetal and human variety -- the solstice has spawned celebrations meant to fan the flames of love and lust.
updated 6:43 AM EDT, Thu June 13, 2013
Why did the midsummer maypole cause offense and who celebrates midsummer by running naked through the streets?
updated 1:07 PM EST, Thu December 20, 2012
For some it was an exhilarating holiday to an exotic place, finding new love or conquering their greatest fear. For others, it was witnessing an historic event.
updated 10:39 AM EST, Mon December 17, 2012
The champagne is on ice, the fireworks are exploding overhead -- but isn't your New Year's Eve party a bit, well, last year?
updated 10:54 PM EST, Thu December 13, 2012
Edinburgh is cast aglow at its annual New Year's Eve (Hogmanay) festivities with a torchlight procession involving more than 25,000 locals
For many people, New Year's Eve can be disappointing -- there's so much hype in the lead-up to the event, it often falls short of the mark.
updated 8:45 PM EST, Tue December 11, 2012
If your Christmas is too often one of tacky decorations, over-cooked turkey and bitter family feuds, now may be the time to plan yourself a Yuletide getaway.
updated 5:36 AM EST, Mon December 24, 2012
Jen Best from Liberty, Misouri, snapped this adorable picture of her six month old nephew, Grayson, playing with fairy lights after seeing the idea on Pintrest.
Christmas is synonymous with decorations, markets and extravagant quantities of food. But traditions differ greatly depending on where you are in the world.
updated 10:22 AM EST, Sun December 23, 2012
For something intended to bring pleasure to loved ones, Christmas shopping in the Internet age can be a peculiarly joyless and atomized activity.
updated 3:31 PM EST, Fri December 7, 2012
For some, Hanukkah is "the potato pancake holiday" -- a holiday that takes the mundane potato and gives it a massive makeover.
How much do you know about Christmas traditions around the world? Find out with our quiz.
updated 8:07 AM EST, Tue November 26, 2013
The biennale will attract artists such as Sudarshan Shetty, whose previous works have included this aluminium and wood sculpture known as
The port-city of Kochi, on India's west coast, isn't known for its arts scene but that will change as it's first arts bienale.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT