February 27, 2024

Festival Fever . . . by Joseph G. Evrard, Staff Kentuckian


Climb aboard Boys and Girls, we’re off on another adventure to discover some of the more offbeat and wacky festivals people have dreamed up to celebrate local talents, promote indigenous products and rake in those ever-popular tourist dollars.

As we travel across our great land we’ll catch a glimpse of the impossible, see a healthy dose of the improbable and maybe even encounter the unthinkable. Let’s go.

Our first stop is high in the Colorado Rockies in the small town of Gasp. The town was so named because that’s all the original settlers could do. By the time they had climbed thousands of feet to get here they were gasping for breath in the thin mountain air.  When they finally caught their breath, they looked out at the magnificent panorama of nature arrayed before them and gasped again.

Having recovered from that thrill, they chanced to look down over the edge of the cliff they were standing on into the valley four thousand feet below. They had no choice but to gasp again.

The final gasp came when they looked at the bill presented by the outfitter who had rented them the mules and supplies to make the trip. They couldn’t afford to go any farther, so they decided to make the best of it and build their town here.
Since those pioneer days Gasp has grown to become a vibrant community of writers (who generate hot air), artists (who put on airs), high school dropouts (who are airheads), and dog breeders (who raise Airedales). This common theme is what prompted the town fathers to inaugurate the Festival of Air.

Each year tourists flock to Gasp to celebrate air in all its glory.  Air hockey tournaments abound. Debates allow residents and visitors alike an opportunity to air their differences. All over town you can see people airing their dirty laundry. TV and radio stations broadcast from the festival displaying big signs reading “On the Air.”  Strolling minstrels play airs on flutes and lutes and toots. Vendors line the streets to sell air compressors, air hammers, air conditioners, air filters and air planes (tools used cut and shape blocks of air by removing thin shavings).

The culmination of the festival is the magic show in which a skilled performer makes all manner of objects vanish into thin air.
At festival’s end, everybody agrees it was a great blowout and goes home to rest and plan for next year.

A rather offbeat celebration occurs annually in Mott, West Virginia where you can attend Applesauce Appreciation Day. Here, in addition to the obvious attractions such as the applesauce cook-off and the applesauce-tasting booth, you can see the world’s longest eating contest.
Each contestant is given a one-quart container of applesauce. The first person to eat all the applesauce wins the grand prize. This sounds like it might be a kind of fun, messy, raucous thing, but in truth, it’s deadly dull and boring. You see, the contestants must eat the applesauce with chopsticks. Three hours into the contest there are no spectators left and even the judges have fallen asleep.

Energy runs much higher at the applesauce stomp in the city park. Here, everybody is invited to make applesauce in the old fashioned way by taking off their shoes and jumping into a huge vat of apples. With much jumping and stomping to the rhythm of an oompah band, the huge pile of apples is reduced to applesauce much in the manner of the traditional grape stomp used to make wine.

Rather than consume the end product (which, as you might guess is less than pristine) the resultant applesauce is poured into a dunk tank where the mayor and city council take turns being dunked to raise money for homeless apple trees.

If you want a celebration that’s a bit more slow moving than most, you might want to visit the Slug Festival in Slime, Missouri.
All year the children of Slime work to make humorous and festive costumes for their pet slugs. On festival day they proudly parade their pets down the street to the rousing music of the high school marching band (which must march very slowly). The best-dressed slug wins a year’s supply of lettuce and a salt-proof raincoat.

Later, the big slug race will consume the rest of the week-long festival. People who like to root for their favorite slug drive in from home several times a day to cheer them on.  If people can’t agree on a winner, they just slug it out. Wow!  What a great time!

See ya around,

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