When something is worth celebrating, you throw a festival. It doesn’t matter if it’s popular, obscure, or just plain weird, there’s probably a festival for it somewhere in this country. The word festival comes from the ancient Latin term “festum” which is also where we get the word “feast.” So it’s fitting to start off a list of the coolest festivals in the United States with one celebrating food.
Every July the town of Pittsfield, Maine sees its population of 5,000 residents joined by 35,000 guests. What brings all of these people to a small town in central Maine? Eggs! The Pittsfield Egg Festival has a new “egg’citing” pun for a theme every year, but you can always expect to see the egglympics, lumberjack shows, and plenty of delicious fair food.
The Queehee Highlands and Celtic Festival in Quechee Vermont substitutes the Green Mountains for the hills of Scotland, but there’s plenty of Scottish culture and pride to be had here, and more than a little Celtic style too. There’s real Scottish food, traditional games like the caber toss, and even genealogists to help you learn about your clan.
Cottage Grove, Oregon is home of the Bohemia Mining Days festival. This celebration of the town’s industrial past features contributions from both the local gold mining museum and the aviation museum. Costumed volunteers roam the festival exploring different parts of the city’s past with guests. Cinematic history in the form of The General, so film buffs and train enthusiasts both have an extra reason to experience the area’s historic railways as part of the festival.
Cooperstown, New York in October is the place to go for fans of farming equipment. Tractor Fest happens once a year at the Farmers’ museum and features over 30 classic tractors, including historic models from the early Twentieth Century. Tractor pulls, exhibits, and fair food are all rounded off with a tractor parade through the center of town.
There are several Elvis Festivals spread out across the country, but the only place you can truly appreciate a rendition of Viva Las Vegas is Sin City itself. The Las Vegas Elvis Festival is a three-day event jam packed with memorabilia and appreciation for the King. The main event is an impersonator’s competition with a $5,000 grand prize.
Do you like watermelon? Do you like it enough to try eating a 175 pound one? Rush Springs Oklahoma has you covered if that sounds like a sane amount. Their yearly Watermelon Festival has some of the biggest you’ll ever see, and over 50,000 pounds of watermelon are sold to fair goers in just one day.
A lot of festivals happen in Los Angeles, but one of the newest is also one of the tastiest: The Los Angeles Bread Festival. Bakers and bread lovers from all across California converge at the Grand Central Market to sample and appreciate breads made from all sorts of grains from under the West Coast sun.
The Cradle of Birding Festival celebrates the creation of the sport of bird watching at the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge, which can be reached by public transit from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Cradle of Birding Festival features keynote speeches by experts in their fields about birds, butterflies, and other sorts of wildlife. But don’t worry about it all being about theory; this family friendly festival also features time out in the field taking in displays of birding, archery, live musical performances, and trolley tours.
Port Huron, Michigan is home to the BlueWater SandFest, a celebration of everybody’s beachside activity: sand castles. Just a stone’s throw from Michigan’s oldest lighthouse, the festival features three different divisions of sand sculptors, including both professional crafters of sand castles and complete amateurs. In addition to the competition there are speed sculpting demonstrations and even lessons on the art of building sand castles.
Paleontologists of all ages will love the Big Water Dinosaur Festival of Big Water Utah. Located near the “Grand Staircase,” a breathtaking geological feature that has played a key part in discovering much about the creatures that once roamed the Earth. While serious science is discussed at the event, serious fun is also to be had. Bounce houses and arts and crafts are also available in addition to tours.
The Brooklyn Book Festival in New York City is a great event for fans of reading. Famous authors and newcomers to the publishing world alike are given a chance to talk about their craft in addresses, and it’s not just limited to wordsmiths. Graphic artists and cartoonists will also be talking about their work. The weeklong event also has a children’s day where the authors of some of the most popular story books will be on stage reading their work.
Where’s the beef? You can definitely find it at The National Hamburger Festival of Akron, Ohio. This celebration of one of America’s favorite foods routinely attracts more than 100,000 people with burgers on their mind. There are eating contests, a staged debate about which city invented the hamburger, and more patties and buns than you can shake a stick at.
What could be better than watching your favorite cat videos? Watching them on the CHS Field jumbroton at the Walker Art Center’s Internet Cat Video Festival in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Cat themed art projects and musical performances fill the day until dusk, when a reel of photos of participant’s cats and the top rated videos from around the world are played in all their larger than life furry glory.
The National Cherry Blossom Festival calls itself “The Nation’s Greatest Springtime Celebration” and after attending you might just agree. Parades, galas, and more all mark the blooming of the Cherry Blossoms. The trees were a gift from Japan, there are also many opportunities to learn about Japanese culture and their relationship with the United States as well.