The Weirdest Summer Tradition in Every State

If you're in Wisconsin, don't forget to throw some "cow chips."

The Weirdest Summer Tradition in Every State

It’s no secret that Americans look forward to summertime. The season’s requisite beaching, boating, and barbecuing are timeless traditions that are hard to top. But when you get into the particulars and look at how summertime is celebrated in each state, things can get a little weird—in some cases, very weird.

For instance, in one state, people find it completely normal to competitively hurl patties of dried cow dung. And in another, an entire town starts rummaging for their favorite Christmas tree toppers—in the middle of July. (Yes, there’s a literal Christmas in July in the United States.) While in yet other states still, people worship headless chickens and bovines built out of butter. Clearly, there’s something about the ticked-up mercury that gets to people’s heads.

Herein, we’ve compiled the most truly bizarre traditions that have cropped up in the 50 states and persisted, summer after summer. So prepare to be astonished by the crazy summertime customs us Americans can cook up. And for tips on how to beat the heat while partaking in these events, don’t miss 20 Surprising Things That Can Keep You Cooler All Summer.

debutante ball weird summer traditions

Alabama: Attend debutante balls.

Characterized by pearl necklaces and elegant, flowing white dresses, this tradition of presenting eligible daughters to society is still holding strong. And for more state-specific facts, See the Top Slang Term from Every U.S. State.

alaska Nalukataq Festival weird summer traditions

Alaska: The blanket toss.

Alaskan Native Americans celebrate the successful culmination of whale-hunting season in June with a death-defying activity: blanket tossing, as seen in the Nalukataq festival. Dancers are launched to remarkable heights using a blanket made of seal skins.

door handles weird summer traditions

Arizona: Pad the door handles.

As we all learned in elementary school science, metal is a conductor of heat—and in Arizona’s case, those metal door handles can become absolutely scorching. Apparently, one business even improvised by wrapping toilet paper around the handles until they could get new ones installed. And for more tips on maintaining a manageable temperature during the summer months, don’t miss 17 Genius Ways to Keep Your Bedroom Cooler.

watermelon seed spitting contest weird summer traditions

Arkansas: Spit watermelon seeds.

Sure, your state might have watermelon-eating contests, but do they also compete every August to see who can shoot those tiny black seeds the furthest?

california garlic festival weird summer traditions

California: Celebrate garlic like it’s a god. 

Every summer, California residents gather to celebrate the bane of vampires like it’s actually something from legend. For proof, just take a look at this monolithic garlic bulb monument (pictured above, at the annual Gilroy Garlic Festival). In fact, at some fests, truly diehard fans can find the most odious and niche of garlic-flavored foods: garlic-flavored ice cream.

colorado headless chicken festival, weird summer traditions

Colorado: Worship a headless chicken.

Believe it or not, Coloradans come together every June to remember the bizarrely true story of Mike, The Headless Wonder Chicken. After Mike’s owner severed his head to prepare him for dinner, the chicken resiliently refused to die, and in fact thrived for 18 months without a head. The annual festivities in Mike’s memory include a poultry show and a rooster calling contest.

Photo via Instagram

garden party weird summer traditions

Connecticut: Host a flamboyant garden party.

Connecticut natives might not live in the Garden State, but they are certainly still proud of their gardens—and summer is the perfect time to invite the neighbors over to flaunt your flora.

horseshoe crab spawning weird summer traditions

Delaware: Watch horseshoe crabs, ahem, spawn.

Delaware Bay is, as reported by the Washington Postthe hot spot for this not-to-be-missed affair, wherein horseshoe crabs wash ashore and perform their annual mating ritual.

florida underwater music festival, weird summer traditions

Florida: Attend underwater concerts.

In Florida, people dress in their favorite mermaid attire and dive into the depths of the ocean, ready to float around Looe Key while jamming to ocean tunes streamed through waterproof speakers.

Photo via Instagram

dolls head trail weird summer traditions

Georgia: Add to a trail of discarded dolls.

Summer is the ideal time for Georgians to traipse through Doll’s Head Trail and add their own “found art” to a meandering collection of randomness, mainly consisting of, yes, abandoned doll heads.

hawaii ukulele festival, weird summer traditions

Hawaii: Play ukuleles. A lot. Like, every day.

Hawaiians convene to celebrate the Island State’s favored string instrument, with the highlight being a full-fledged ukulele orchestra performance featuring over 800 students, most of whom are children.

Photo via Instagram

idaho floating the boise river weird summer traditions

Idaho: Anxiously await “float season.”

Idaho natives beat the heat by floating down the Boise River—but they often have to wait until mid-July before the river has drained to a reasonable depth for “float season” to officially begin.

illinois broom corn festival, weird summer traditions

Illinois: See who can sweep the fastest.

An annual summer event, the objective of Illinois’ sweeping contest is simple: sweep the most broom corn seeds through the maze to the hole at the end. The sweeper with the most grains in the hole within the one-minute time limit wins the coveted broom corn broom.

Photo via Instagram

indy 500 weird summer traditions

Indiana: Religiously watch the Indy 500.

Even if you aren’t actually in attendance every year, all true Hoosiers are sure to have their TVs tuned in to this epic race held annually in Indianapolis.

iowa butter cow, weird summer traditions

Iowa: Gaze upon a butter bovine.

For over a century, thousands of state fair visitors have flocked to Des Moines to view this massive, 600-pound masterpiece, made entirely of, yes, pure Iowan butter. Serving as the sculptor for the piece is a privilege that has only been delegated to five people since the concept of the butter cow sculpture began; in fact, the cow’s current sculptor spent an astonishing 15 years as an apprentice before being entrusted with crafting the sculpture herself.

kansas renaissance festival weird summer traditions

Kansas: Take up jousting.

Who would’ve guessed that Kansas, of all places, hosts one of the nation’s largest Renaissance festivals? Medieval England is colorfully revived on the Kansas plains for several weeks every summer on this 16-acre spread, featuring nearly 500 costumed characters performing a variety of live entertainment.

kentucky lebowski fest weird summer traditions

Kentucky: Venerate “The Dude.”

Diehard fans of the Coen brothers’ 1998 cult classic, The Big Lebowski, eagerly look forward to convening in Louisville with their fellow “achievers.” And for more on The Big Lebowski, don’t miss 30 Shocking Facts about Your Favorite Movies.

louisiana san fermin festival, weird summer traditions

Louisiana: Run from a rollergirl stampede.

In a unique take on Spain’s famous Encierro, or “Running of the Bulls,” New Orleans traditionally holds an entirely bull-less version of the European event. Rather than being chased by steers, though, these runners enter the race at their own risk of being pursued by “rollergirls”: participants from roller derby leagues across the country.

maine lobster crate race, weird summer traditions

Maine: Scurry across lobster crates.

Every August, participants in the statewide lobster crate race bravely slip and slide their way across a makeshift “bridge” of lobster crates bobbing in the Atlantic Ocean. The current record of a phenomenal 4,501 crates was set by a 12-year-old in 2008.

maryland watermen's rodeo, weird summer traditions

Maryland: Compete in a “watermen’s rodeo.”

Seasoned sailors from across the coast showcase their skills in a series of nautical events, including boat docking contests.

woman packing suitcase weird summer traditions

Massachusetts: Get out of Dodge.

Every summer, the population of Massachusetts precipitously drops, thanks to hundreds of thousands of college kids who leave the state. (You can palpably feel the effect in Boston, where there are more than four dozen institutions of higher education.)

michigan fungus festival weird summer traditions

Michigan: Fangirl over fungus.

As luck would have it, Michigan is home to the world’s largest contiguous organism—a massive subterranean mushroom network spanning over 37 acres, and this bizarre claim to fame is celebrated with a series of events including a “Men’s Beardy Pageant.”

Photo via Instagram

minnesota pig kiss weird summer traditions

Minnesota: Kiss pigs.

You mean your state doesn’t have annual summer fundraisers revolving around puckering up for farm animals?

spitting crickets weird summer traditions

Mississippi: Spit crickets.

Yep, we mean the real, live insects. Spittin’ crickets is a summertime activity not for the faint of heart.

Photo via Instagram


missouri turtle playground weird summer traditions

Missouri: Playing on diapsid playgrounds.

Your kids might play on traditional swings and monkey bars, but, in Missouri, children have been clambering over the enormous reptiles featured in Turtle Playground since the stone creatures were installed in the late ’90s. And for more bizarre facts about America’s communities, bone up on the 40 Craziest Small Town Laws in America.

montana grand victorian ball

Montana: Brush up on the quadrille.

The townspeople of Virginia City throw reenactment balls hearkening back to the Victorian era, where attendees dress in their finest period attire and prepare to waltz the evening away.

Photo via Facebook

nebraska wayne chicken show, weird summer traditions

Nebraska: Participate in the world’s largest chicken dance

Yes, the Cornhusker State has laid claim to the chicken dancing record. Apparently, the chicken theme was chosen for no other reason than “the potential for art materials” and the fact that “chickens can be considered with humor.” And for the world’s best fictional chicken dance, don’t miss the 30 Callbacks from Arrested Development You Definitely Missed. (Coo-coo-ca-cha!)

nevada burning man festival, weird summer traditions

Nevada: Burning Man.

We need no words.

alpine coaster weird summer traditions

New Hampshire: Coast down cement.

Normally the slides we frequent during the summer have water, but instead, New Hampshire residents opt for these cement slides that provide panoramic views of the alpine landscape. And for some more traditional summer slides, don’t miss these 30 Shocking Facts about Water Parks.

Photo via Instagram

jersey shore weird summer traditions

New Jersey: Storm the Jersey Shore.

No doubt about it, Jersey Shore is the place to party during the summer months. And for more ideas on which shores to visit this summer, bone up on The 30 Best Beaches in America.

new mexico ufo festival

New Mexico: Dress up as aliens.

In commemoration of the 1947 event where a flying object (later identified by the U.S. Army as a high-altitude balloon) crashed into the town of Roswell, every summer, New Mexico pokes lighthearted fun at the people who swore the object was a message from aliens. And for more on extraterrestrial existence, don’t miss 20 Famous Rumors We All Wish Were True.

Photo via Instagram

new york mermaid parade, weird summer traditions

New York: Flipping fins.

A nod to the New Yorkers who live on aquatic-themed streets with names like Mermaid and Neptune, people sport their finest seashells and scales every June for Coney Island’s Mermaid Parade, a tradition promoting self-expression, artistry, and a love of mythology.

north carolina christmas in july weird summer traditions

North Carolina: Literal Christmas in July.

Because 12 months is way too long to wait for Christmas to come back around, Ashe County holds a jolly celebration of their booming Christmas tree industry (one of the top producers in the country) with mountain music, a “Best of the Best” Christmas tree competition, and a shorts and sunglass-wearing Santa.

Photo via Instagram

north dakota lightning storm

North Dakota: Storm-watching.

There’s nothing quite like watching a summer lightning storm zigzag across the wide-open Great Plains of North Dakota. (Who knows: you may witness a tornado, too.)

ohio duck tape festival weird summer traditions

Ohio: Crafting duct tape masterpieces.

You probably don’t love duct tape as much as Ohioans do. And by love, we mean they come together every summer to celebrate this commodity by building duck tape parade floats, holding a duct tape fashion show, and showcasing master displays of duct tape artisanship.

Photo via Instagram

oklahoma noodling tournament, weird summer traditions

Oklahoma: Noodling.

Fishing is already a sport that requires skill, but Oklahoma notches up the intensity with their summer noodling tournaments, where competitors are required to use nothing more than their hands to catch the winning catfish.

oregon waterfall weird summer traditions

Oregon: Chase waterfalls.

With so much outdoor splendor to admire, it’s no surprise that Oregonians prefer to spend their summers trekking through the outdoors, in search of the most scenic waterfalls. And for more waterfalls you should definitely visit, check out 15 Waterfalls So Magical You Won’t Believe They’re in the U.S.

pennsylvania blobfest, weird summer traditions

Pennsylvania: Relive a ’50s sci-fi film.

Remember that movie The Blob? Phoenixville certainly does. The town’s Colonial Theatre was in the background for several shots of that iconic film, and they strive to keep the spirit of twentieth-century science-fiction alive with film screenings, costume contests, and live reenactments each July. And for films that haven’t been lost to time, Here’s the Biggest Summer Blockbuster Every Year Since Jaws.

rhode island waterfire, weird summer traditions

Rhode Island: Set the river on fire.

In an artistic event meant to inspire onlookers, the Providence River is periodically set ablaze every summer as over 80 blazing bonfires travel down the river in torchlit vessels, in a unique installation of fire sculpture art.

crazy facts

South Carolina: Watch people weave hammocks.

In Pawleys Island, you’ll find the eponymously named Pawleys Island Hammocks, a 125-year-old company best known for popularizing the rope hammock. During the summer months, South Carolinians—and tourists—will flock to town to watch Pawleys Island Hammock’s master artisans go through the painstakingly slow process of crafting hammocks from scratch.

south dakota mashed potato wrestling, weird summer traditions

South Dakota: Compete in a mashed potato wrestling contest.

Every August, South Dakotans sign up to wrestle in a pit of…mashed potatoes? We’re guessing they don’t want any gravy with that.

Photo via Instagram

barkley marathon weird summer traditions

Tennessee: Watch runners compete in “The Race that Eats Its Young.”

Few want to actually participate in the Barkley Marathons, an insane athletic event where competitors are required to complete five loops of harrowing uphill ascents in under 60 hours—but it’s definitely awe-inspiring to watch.

texas bat fest weird summer traditions

Texas: Admiring the bats.

Every June, the enormous colony of Mexican freetail bats (purportedly the largest bat colony in the world) roosting under Austin’s Congress Avenue Bridge gives birth to new bat pups. By mid-August, the pups are finally ready to venture out on their first flight. Onlookers gather at dusk to watch in awe as approximately 1.5 million bats swoop out from under the bridge to begin their evening hunt.

utah summer ski lift weird summer traditions

Utah: Commute via ski lift.

As ski resorts try to up their appeal even in the snow-less summer months, several run their ski lifts in order to cut down on car traffic congestion and still transport guests to their resorts. And for more ideas on summer fun to entertain the entire family, don’t miss 15 Summer Family Trips Your Teenage Children Won’t Hate.

vermont naked bike ride, weird summer traditions

Vermont: Go for a bike ride—naked.

In a state renowned for lacking a law prohibiting public nudity, Vermont bicyclists embrace the chance to cycle in their birthday suit. And for more weird legal trivia, check out The Strangest Law in Every State.

virginia pony swim, weird summer traditions

Virginia: Watch the wild ponies swim.

In an event made famous by Marguerite Henry’s children’s book, Misty of Chincoteague, volunteer firemen annually round up the herd of about 200 wild ponies on Assateague Island and coax them into swimming across the channel to Chincoteague Island. The ponies are shepherded to an auction, where attendees from across the United States bid on and purchase that season’s foals.

washington pirate party weird summer traditions

Washington: Pretend to be a pirate.

No land-lubbers allowed, mateys. Just kidding, but it does seem like Washington takes pirate cosplay pretty seriously, with a slew of pirate-oriented summertime events, ostensibly about recognizing the state’s success in the fishing industry. And to find out how pirates factored into our nation’s founding, check out The 40 Most Enduring Myths in American History.

west virginia roadkill festival weird summer traditions

West Virginia: Feast on roadkill.

To be completely fair, West Virginians don’t indulge in literal roadkill. But area chefs do show their chops by annually competing to see who can cook up the most delectable dishes containing animals that commonly fall prey to to the highway (possum, squirrel, deer, bear, and snapping turtle are just a few of the delicacies included on the menu).

Photo via Instagram

wisconsin cow chip throw weird summer traditions

Wisconsin: Chunk cow chips.

For those not in the know, there’s nothing edible about a “cow chip”— it’s actually dried cow dung. A tradition since 1975, Wisconsinites compete to see who can hurl their cow chip the furthest. The record to beat was set in 1991 by Greg Neumaier, who chunked his chip a phenomenal 248 feet.

Photo via Instagram

wyoming celtic festival weird summer traditions

Wyoming: Wear kilts while throwing cabers.

During the summer, Wyoming natives will occasionally exchange their favored jeans and boots for kilts and bagpipes to honor their Scottish ancestry, which they celebrate with authentic Celtic music and art, as well as a sporting round of Highland Games including the caber throw, sheaf toss, and heavy hammer throw. And if you’re planning a trip to visit any of these states, don’t miss The 25 Best Wheels for Summer Road Trips.

Photo via Instagram

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