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8 Wacky Fall Festivals

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Small town Americans love their harvest festivals. My town just finished one, so I've satisfied my jones for Polish sausage and funnel cake for another year. Here are eight more you may want to check out in the weeks ahead.

Great Outhouse Blowout

The Great Outhouse Blowout and Race 2008 at Penn's Store in Gravel Switch, Kentucky will be September 6th. The event began as a dedication of the first outhouse at the store in 1992. The outhouse race draws entrants from all over the country. A racing outhouse must be a certain size and have a seat with a hole. Up to five people can push or pull the outhouse, but one person must be seated inside. The Outhouse Blowout also has musical performances and a car show.

International Goat Days Festival

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International Goat Days in Millington, Tennessee runs September 12th through the 14th. Bring your goat for the chariot races, the goat milking competition, and the best-dressed goat contest!

World Chicken Festival

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The World Chicken Festival in London, Kentucky was named in honor of Kentucky Fried Chicken, which was founded in the same county (but not the same town). This year's festival is scheduled for September 25-28. Fried chicken is served from the World's Largest Skillet, which is over ten feet in diameter and required 300 gallons of cooking oil. It can fry 150 chickens at once!

Obetz Zucchinifest

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The Obetz Zucchinifest begins today and runs through Sunday, August 24th in Obetz, Ohio. On the menu are zucchini burgers, zucchini fudge, zucchini chili, zucchini bread in many flavors, zucchini cookies, and deep fried beer battered zucchini chips. Enter your zucchini in any of several contests, including the best dressed zucchini. (image: cwalker71)

Kentucky Bourbon Festival

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The Kentucky Bourbon Festival will run September 16-21 in Bardstown, Kentucky. The premiere competition at the festival is the World Championship Bourbon Barrel Relay, in which a 500 pound barrel must be pushed with speed and accuracy. There are divisions for men, woman, and teams. You'll also see barrel dancing during the race intermission.

FireAnt Festival

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This year's FireAnt Festival in Marshall, Texas will take place on October 11th. Events include a parade and the "Tour De Ant" bicycle race and foot race. There may well be fire ants there, too.

Woolly Worm Festival

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The 31st Annual Woolly Worm Festival in Banner Elk, North Carolina will be October 18-19. People have tried to predict winter weather by studying the stripes on woolly bear caterpillars, but the stripes are different on each woolly worm. The festival takes care of that with a Woolly Worm Race, in which the race winner is the definitive caterpillar used to predict the severity of winter weather.

Chitlin Strut

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The Chitlin Strut 2008 in Salley, South Carolina is always the Saturday after Thanksgiving; this year on November 29th. Maybe people are more willing to eat chitlins when they are tired of Thanksgiving leftovers! Chitlins are boiled or fried pig intestines, a southern delicacy. The Chitlin Strut was born in 1966 as a civic fundraiser when Salley, a town of 450, needed new Christmas lights. Enjoy a parade, hog calling contest, pancake breakfast, and a beauty contest where a new Chitlin Queen will be crowned.

If you go to any of these festivals, be sure to tell us about it!

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©noisytoy.net via Wikimedia Commons // CC-BY-SA-4.0
The People of Texel Island are Professional Beachcombers
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©noisytoy.net via Wikimedia Commons // CC-BY-SA-4.0

If you’ve ever tossed a message in a bottle into the ocean from anywhere in Northern Europe, it’s likely it ended up on Texel Island. Located off the North Coast of the Netherlands, Texel is at the intersection of several major currents, and close to several shipping routes. For the last 400 years, Texel residents have survived, in part, by scavenging items that have been lost at sea.

According to documentarian Sam Walkerdine in a piece for The Mirror, the practice has faded as other economic opportunities have opened up, but many residents still scour the beaches for lost items. One professional beachcomber, Cor Ellen, claims to have found over 500 bottles with letters inside—and has even answered some of them.

Ellen is one of the subjects of Flotsam and Jetsam (2012), Walkerdine’s 13-minute documentary on the Texel Island beachcombers (you can watch it above). In the film, a handful of Texel Islanders show off their best finds, and share their stories and strange observations. Ellen, for example, brags about scavenging crates of food, fur coats, powdered milk (“I didn’t have to go to the milkman for one year”), and even umbrella handles from passing cargo ships. Another beachcomber reminisces about finding something more personal: the collected photos and memorabilia of an English couple who had broken up and tossed their memories into the sea.

One of the weirder observations comes from Piet Van Leerson, whose family has been beachcombing for at least five generations: he claims that only left shoes wash up on Texel’s shores. The right shoes, meanwhile, end up in England and Scotland. (The shapes cause them to go in different directions.)

Beachcombing is such a big part of life on Texel, they’ve even opened several museums to show off their weirdest, funniest, and most interesting finds.

If you do decide to try and get a bottle with a letter in it to Texel, the residents have a few suggestions for you: drop the bottle somewhere off the coast of England, weigh it down with pebbles so it doesn’t get caught by the wind, and of course, remember to include a return address.

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YouTube / British Movietone / AP
A Film Tour of London in 1981
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YouTube / British Movietone / AP

Earlier this month, the Associated Press began releasing loads of archival video on YouTube. A large part of that collection comes from British Movietone, which has uploaded thousands of videos of all kinds, including many newsreels.

I have scrolled through countless pages of such videos—most without sound and/or extremely esoteric—and I finally discovered a 1981 gem, This is London. It's a sort of video time capsule for London as it was in the late 1970s and early 1980s, comprising plenty of stock footage of all the sights, royals, and ceremonies you can imagine.

If you've been to London, this is a great glimpse of what it once looked like. If you've never been, why not check out London circa 1981?

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