What is it about state fairs that fill us with glee? Is it the chance to see our favorite local bands? Mental images of deep fried butter? The smells of food, cattle, and sweat simultaneously wafting through the air?
Whatever it is, hundreds of thousands of people travel to state fairs every year in the hopes of indulging in a few highly calorific snacks and celebrating Americana. While these fairs typically happen in the late summer through the fall, we thought we’d get a head start with 10 quirky attractions that help make this country a little weird, and a lot of fun.
Connecticut: Skillet Toss
July 10 – October 12
Who can throw the skillet the farthest? Sounds like the culinary version of frisbee, but the Skillet Toss cooks up fierce competition. The event is for women only, in what could be perceived as an unintentionally progressive form of stress relief. Just be warned – the skillet’s heavier than it looks.
Indiana: Great American Duck Race
August 1 – 7
The Great Duck Race entertains its audiences swimmingly, whether it’s with the speed of the quacking participants, or with a few foul duck jokes. Be warned: Wagering tends to ruffle a few feathers in these parts.
Illinois: Butter Cow
August 7 – 17
This is a 500-pound sculpture made entirely of butter. Why? Tradition. Illinois has been crafting a cow out of butter since the 1920s. The spectacle – and it truly is – takes two days to make. After the fair, the cow won’t be used to butter the world’s largest bowl, but it’s instead preserved and reused for another butter sculpture.
Iowa: Mullet Contest
August 7 – 17
Travel back to 1986 with Iowa’s Mullet Contest. It honors those who remain businessmen in the front and partiers in the back.
Missouri: Fiddling Competition
August 7 – 17
Dating back to the 1720s, Missouri’s fiddling competition proudly combines the state’s French and Irish heritage. Since the 1970s, the state’s most talented fiddlers have headed to the State Fair in hopes of claiming the Best Fiddler title. As the beats erupt, spectators always begin with a toe-tapping two-step, turning the event into a vintage dance party.
Kentucky: Rooster Crowing Contest
August 14 – 24
The winner of this contest is the rooster that crows the most times in fifteen minutes. The winner may only take home $10 and a bag of chicken feed, but bragging rights last forever.
Alaska: Great Cabbage Weight-Off
August 21 – September 1
Charlie Brown popularized the Great Pumpkin, but Alaska cherishes the Great Cabbage Weigh-Off, where competitors seek to grow the heaviest head on Earth. In 2012, the champion and current world-record holder grew a nearly 140-pound plant. Now that’s a lot of sauerkraut.
Nebraska: Electric Lineworkers Rodeo
August 22 – September 1
By day, these brave workers restore power to neighborhoods. By night, they apparently perform stunts while dangling from the wires. At Nebraska’s Fair, you can see how these men and women operate under stressful work conditions, only conducted in emergency and rescue situations.
Kansas: Creative Spud Contest
September 5 – 14
Like a Mr. Potatohead beauty pageant, Kansas’ State Fair invites youngsters to create the best looking potato using any natural enhancement. Add a name and personality to bring Mr. or Mrs. Potatohead to life.
Texas: Big Tex Choice Awards
September 26 – October 19
Fried chicken, fried beer, fried peaches and cream, fried anything and everything appears at the Texas State Fair. Last year’s winner was the Fried Thanksgiving Dinner. Join the hundreds who come to taste the creative concoctions and be prepared to be shocked at what people will fry.
Louisiana: Lawn Tractor Pull
October 23 – November 2
Is there anything more quintessentially American than a tractor pull? The area’s strongest farmers gather in Shreveport to test their grips on antique tractors, towing each as far as possible. There’s no real winner or loser, just a spectacle of strength.