The Wackiest, Most Unusual Spring Festivals in the U.S.

From stuffing your face with grits to just watching ice melt, there’s something for everyone.

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Nenana Ice Classic

Nenana, Alaska
Until the ice breaks



Since 1917, the citizens of Nenana, Alaska—current population 341—have been betting on Mother Nature.

In the only legal gambling in the state, every year wagers are made on when the exact moment the ice on the frozen Tenanan river will break, measured by a clock connected to a tripod set up 300 feet from shore.

Tripod falls in, clock stops, and winners take home quite the jackpot.

McMenamins UFO Festival

McMinnville, Oregon
Whether you’re all-in on extraterrestrials or just curious about what lurks in the final frontier, the annual McMenamins UFO fest will be sure to enlighten.



Photo: Jim Fischer.

Based on an actual UFO sighting in the area in 1950, this year’s festival has expert speakers like author and UFO experiencer Whitley Strieber, and Bryan Bender, who focuses on the Pentagon, NASA, and the defense and aerospace industries for POLITICO.

Lionfish Removal and Awareness Day Festival

Destin-Fort Walton Beach, Florida
You may know the fish as the striped showstopper, but there’s a dark side to its beauty.



Photo: Courtesy of Destin-Fort Walton Beach, Florida.

When this invasive predator species finds its way into coastal waters—especially reef ecosystems—it wreaks havoc, consuming over 50 species of fish, competing for food with dwindling populations of native dwellers, and taking out the species that actually help the reefs.

The two-day festival includes tastings of lionfish, conservation booths, and information on how you can become a Reef Ranger

Elkfest

Jackson, Wyoming
Hunting for these sheds has become a favorite pastime in Wyoming, a way to emerge from winter by getting some fresh air and exercise, and perhaps come home with a prize.



Photo: Harvey O. Stowe/Shutterstock.

These sheds are also the reason for Elkfest, an annual celebration centered around an antler auction (and anything else collected, like skulls), benefiting the National Elk Refuge and local boy scouts.

Duck Tape Festival

Avon, Ohio
Avon, Ohio, a suburb of Cleveland, is the home of Shurtape Technologies, makers of Duck Tape brand duct tape. And they love that fact.



Photo: Rona Proudfoot/Flickr.

Because coming in just under the wire of spring—sealing their chances to be in this roundup—is the annual Duck Tape Festival.

As dads love duct tape, it takes place on Father’s Day weekend, and is free to attend, with crafts, games, food, a parade, a fashion show and lots of stickiness (be careful what you touch).

North Carolina Pickle Festival

Mount Olive, North Carolina
Come for the free pickles, stay for the pickle murals, pickle train, competitions like a 5K evening run



A pickle packing challenge, mascot race and, of course, a pickle eating contest, where the winner gets $100 and a year’s supply of pickles. They may not want to see any more pickles after that, but hey, it’s a prime opportunity to make friends.

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