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7 of America's Quirkiest Food Festivals

A typical summer for the average American consists of a picnic or two, some time at the beach, and of course a carnival or a food festival—especially if you are from a small town. Usually the theme is based on that particular town's local produce or specialty, be it peaches, asparagus, gumbo or cheese curds. There are usually fireworks, parades, car shows, cook-offs, and maybe even a fashionable 10K race.

But some towns add a little spice, and yes, sometimes even a little (or big?) testicle. These are the quirkiest food festivals in America. So rev up your road trip engines, loosen your belt buckles, tuck a (paper) napkin in your collar and dig in!

1. Gizzard Festival: June 6-8, Potterville, MI
Let's kick things off with the Potterville Gizzard Festival, which is going on right now. Complete with all the traditional regalia of a fine food festival—a car show, a mud derby, some fireworks and a parade—there is also the annual gizzard eating contest at Joe's Potterville Inn. Not for the faint of stomach, contestants have to eat two pounds of gizzards as quickly as they can. Winners get bragging rights for the year, plus $100 in cold, hard cash. Whoever said one couldn't make a living eating chicken gizzards?

And what exactly is a chicken gizzard? A gizzard is a secondary stomach that can be found in both birds and reptiles. It aids in digestion by grinding food with ingested stones before returning the food to the primary stomach. Mmmm! Supposedly, it's a little like chewy chicken liver and, when lightly seasoned with a little salt and pepper, can be quite nice. If you live near Potterville and you're equal parts hungry and brave, grab a gizzard hat and head out there this weekend.

2. RC and MoonPie Festival: June 21, Bell Buckle, TN
You really can't get more Southern than a cold RC Cola and a freshly unwrapped MoonPie. Add a little BBQ into the mix and you have the Bell Buckle RC and MoonPie Festival. When a population of just over 400 swells to 15,000 for one weekend of the year you know it's gotta be good. And is it ever—they bake the world's largest MoonPie! Each year, the newly elected MoonPie King and Queen select a group of Knights for their round table. These Knights aid in the ceremonial cutting and distributing of free pieces of the world's largest MoonPie.

But the real draw of this festival is the "Synchronized Wading" extravaganza. Described as "dry humor on a wet stage," the Down Home Divas (led by First Lady Carla Webb) will perform "A Midsummer's Nightmare" this year. It will star Miss Moon Pie and feature special appearances by the Googoo cluster and a Coke. A cheeky twist on Shakespeare performed in a kiddie pool? Count me in! [Image courtesy of pulltight.]

3. Bologna: July 25-27, Yale, MI
Yale bologna is said to be some of the best in the world. A bit courser and more strongly seasoned than your typical Oscar Mayer slice, this bologna has been rumored to help people live to be 120 years old. (We couldn't find any 120-year-old bologna enthusiasts to confirm this.) Every year, in a single weekend, over a thousand pounds of bologna are served either fried in sandwiches, stuck between a bun as a hot dog or placed around a stick in ring form.

The Bologna Queen crown is quite prestigious in Yale. Contestants must declare their intention to run up to six weeks in advance and be willing to raise tens of thousands of dollars for charity. The lucky lady who captures this highly respected title receives a crown of ringed bologna and a King for her arm. And of course, there is the outhouse race where people build a crude loo on wheels to push around town as fast as they can. The only requirements? The inclusion of a Sears catalog and somebody riding inside—hopefully not because of one too many bologna sticks.

4. Testicle Festival: July 30-Aug 3, Rock Creek Lodge, MT
rockcreek.gifSorry kiddies, this one is not for you. Also known as the "Testy Festy" or the "Breasticle Festival," this four-day drunken jamboree is filled with wet t-shirt contests, pig wrestling, stripping, mooning, bull riding, and fried bull testicle consumption. Called "Rocky Mountain Oysters," bull testicles are considered delicious by a select group of fine diners. In a showcase of masculine virility, there is even a bull testicle eating contest. Matt Powers took the title last year after consuming over 40 bull testicles in four minutes. Mentioned in Playboy as one of the top things to do in the summer (as long as you're down with nudity and motorcycles), you should follow their advice and "come out and have a ball!"

5. Humongous Fungus: August 7-10, Crystal Falls, MI
In honor of the world's largest—and possibly oldest—living organism, the Amirillaria Bulbosa (aka "honey mushroom," which spans 38 acres under an Iron County forest and may be as old as 10,000 years), the good people of Crystal Falls, Michigan, throw a festival every year. People travel from all over the world to get a glimpse of this humongous fungus, but can be bitterly disappointed upon realization that it is almost completely underground. But their disappointment does not last long. At the festival there are fungus shirts, fungus burgers, fungus fudge, and fungus mushroom hats to assuage their grief.

fungus-pizza.jpg

And did I mention the HUMONGOUS sausage and mushroom pizza they cook every year? Placed over a roasting pit in a humongous pizza-roasting pan by a humongous lumber truck crane, this pizza measures over 100 square feet! [Image courtesy of Kim Olson.] Other events include a mushroom cook-off, a strong man competition and a humongous picnic. Plus David Letterman once mentioned the famed Humungous Fungus on one of his top ten lists.

road-kill.jpg6. Roadkill Festival: Sept 27, Marlinton, WV
This is where it starts to get good. With taglines like "You kill it we grill it; featuring some of the highway's finest" and "Eating food is more fun when you know it was hit on the run," Marlinton, West Virginia, knows how to bring a little humor into a good food festival. Featuring any animal often—but in this case, not actually—roadkill, contestants cook up recipes using possum, beaver, raccoon, snake, deer or armadillo. Care to try some "Deer Smear Quesadillas" or "Bumper Bruised Barbequed Bear"? This is the place!

7. Turkey Testicle Festival: October 11, Byron, IL
It must be the rhyming, because I cannot think of any other reason why there are so many testicle festivals. This one, however, is a little more PG. Still only for the 21-and-over crowd (is it necessary to be plastered when consuming fried testicles?), the Turkey Testicle Festival consists of more savory activities like Karaoke, a performance by the Testilett dancers, and a fundraiser for charity that brought in over $25,000 last year.

Every year, over 275 lbs. of turkey testicles are consumed at Byron's Union Street Station. Now in its 30th year, this festival is facing an uphill battle to continue the tradition. Last year, an underage drinker got past security, and passed out in the bathroom, prompting a police investigation. Now the fate of this storied festival is up in the air. How storied? Well, there's a song dedicated to it.

Honorable Mentions

The Dam Festival in Eaton Rapids, Michigan. Just think of the possibilities"¦ "Where are you off to?" "I'm going to that Dam Festival."
The Hopps of Fun Beer Festival in Mackinaw City, Michigan. I just really liked the title.
The Pasty Festival in Calumet, Michigan. It's not that kind of pasty"¦but there is a poetry slam!
The Menudo Festival in San Fernando, California. Menudo is tripe, or cow's stomach. It's thought to cure a hangover, but I don't think I've ever met a hangover worth menudo.

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Shhh...super secret special for blog readers.

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Big Questions
Why Does Turkey Make You Tired?
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iStock

Why do people have such a hard time staying awake after Thanksgiving dinner? Most people blame tryptophan, but that's not really the main culprit. And what is tryptophan, anyway?

Tryptophan is an amino acid that the body uses in the processes of making vitamin B3 and serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps regulate sleep. It can't be produced by our bodies, so we need to get it through our diet. From which foods, exactly? Turkey, of course, but also other meats, chocolate, bananas, mangoes, dairy products, eggs, chickpeas, peanuts, and a slew of other foods. Some of these foods, like cheddar cheese, have more tryptophan per gram than turkey. Tryptophan doesn't have much of an impact unless it's taken on an empty stomach and in an amount larger than what we're getting from our drumstick. So why does turkey get the rap as a one-way ticket to a nap?

The urge to snooze is more the fault of the average Thanksgiving meal and all the food and booze that go with it. Here are a few things that play into the nap factor:

Fats: That turkey skin is delicious, but fats take a lot of energy to digest, so the body redirects blood to the digestive system. Reduced blood flow in the rest of the body means reduced energy.

Alcohol: What Homer Simpson called the cause of—and solution to—all of life's problems is also a central nervous system depressant.

Overeating: Same deal as fats. It takes a lot of energy to digest a big feast (the average Thanksgiving meal contains 3000 calories and 229 grams of fat), so blood is sent to the digestive process system, leaving the brain a little tired.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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Space
More Details Emerge About 'Oumuamua, Earth's First-Recorded Interstellar Visitor
 NASA/JPL-Caltech
NASA/JPL-Caltech

In October, scientists using the University of Hawaii's Pan-STARRS 1 telescope sighted something extraordinary: Earth's first confirmed interstellar visitor. Originally called A/2017 U1, the once-mysterious object has a new name—'Oumuamua, according to Scientific American—and researchers continue to learn more about its physical properties. Now, a team from the University of Hawaii's Institute of Astronomy has published a detailed report of what they know so far in Nature.

Fittingly, "'Oumuamua" is Hawaiian for "a messenger from afar arriving first." 'Oumuamua's astronomical designation is 1I/2017 U1. The "I" in 1I/2017 stands for "interstellar." Until now, objects similar to 'Oumuamua were always given "C" and "A" names, which stand for either comet or asteroid. New observations have researchers concluding that 'Oumuamua is unusual for more than its far-flung origins.

It's a cigar-shaped object 10 times longer than it is wide, stretching to a half-mile long. It's also reddish in color, and is similar in some ways to some asteroids in own solar system, the BBC reports. But it's much faster, zipping through our system, and has a totally different orbit from any of those objects.

After initial indecision about whether the object was a comet or an asteroid, the researchers now believe it's an asteroid. Long ago, it might have hurtled from an unknown star system into our own.

'Oumuamua may provide astronomers with new insights into how stars and planets form. The 750,000 asteroids we know of are leftovers from the formation of our solar system, trapped by the Sun's gravity. But what if, billions of years ago, other objects escaped? 'Oumuamua shows us that it's possible; perhaps there are bits and pieces from the early years of our solar system currently visiting other stars.

The researchers say it's surprising that 'Oumuamua is an asteroid instead of a comet, given that in the Oort Cloud—an icy bubble of debris thought to surround our solar system—comets are predicted to outnumber asteroids 200 to 1 and perhaps even as high as 10,000 to 1. If our own solar system is any indication, it's more likely that a comet would take off before an asteroid would.

So where did 'Oumuamua come from? That's still unknown. It's possible it could've been bumped into our realm by a close encounter with a planet—either a smaller, nearby one, or a larger, farther one. If that's the case, the planet remains to be discovered. They believe it's more likely that 'Oumuamua was ejected from a young stellar system, location unknown. And yet, they write, "the possibility that 'Oumuamua has been orbiting the galaxy for billions of years cannot be ruled out."

As for where it's headed, The Atlantic's Marina Koren notes, "It will pass the orbit of Jupiter next May, then Neptune in 2022, and Pluto in 2024. By 2025, it will coast beyond the outer edge of the Kuiper Belt, a field of icy and rocky objects."

Last week, University of Wisconsin–Madison astronomer Ralf Kotulla and scientists from UCLA and the National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO) used the WIYN Telescope on Kitt Peak, Arizona, to take some of the first pictures of 'Oumuamua. You can check them out below.

Images of an interloper from beyond the solar system — an asteroid or a comet — were captured on Oct. 27 by the 3.5-meter WIYN Telescope on Kitt Peak, Ariz.
Images of 'Oumuamua—an asteroid or a comet—were captured on October 27.
WIYN OBSERVATORY/RALF KOTULLA

U1 spotted whizzing through the Solar System in images taken with the WIYN telescope. The faint streaks are background stars. The green circles highlight the position of U1 in each image. In these images U1 is about 10 million times fainter than the faint
The green circles highlight the position of U1 in each image against faint streaks of background stars. In these images, U1 is about 10 million times fainter than the faintest visible stars.
R. Kotulla (University of Wisconsin) & WIYN/NOAO/AURA/NSF

Color image of U1, compiled from observations taken through filters centered at 4750A, 6250A, and 7500A.
Color image of U1.
R. Kotulla (University of Wisconsin) & WIYN/NOAO/AURA/NSF

Editor's note: This story has been updated.

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