Anyone who tells you Wisconsin is a boring place to live has obviously never visited one of our many festivals throughout the year – especially the events in this article.
Of course, maybe it was boredom that inspired these bizarre ideas. Perhaps a long winter spent staring into the fireplace caused some half-drunken Wisconsinite to think – “Hey, wouldn’t it be pretty cool if…”
Whatever the case, these seven fests and competitive events celebrate what makes Wisconsin weird – in a good way.
1. Wisconsin State Cow Chip Throw – Prairie du Sac
Each September, the best cow chip chuckers around gather for the Wisconsin State Cow Chip Throw. And yes, a cow chip is a large piece of flattened manure. It’s something like a fecal Frisbee.
Teams of four compete to fling these discuses of dung as far as humanly possible. While the rules prohibit wearing gloves, licking your fingers is allowed to get a better grip. Blech! (Just puked in my mouth a little)
Cow chips actually played an important role in U.S. history. Pioneers first took a hint from American Indians and used buffalo chips as fuel for fires to keep warm in winter. But when white folks killed almost all the buffalo, we had to start using cow poop instead.
The first cow chip competition actually took place in Oklahoma. However, the Sauk Prairie area has proudly proclaimed itself the “Cow Chip Capital of the World.”
What’s more, the Wisconsin legislature even declared the cow chip our “Unofficial State Muffin.” Manure muffins – sounds great!
The Cow Chip Throw also hosts a parade, run/walks, an arts and crafts fair and other fun events for people who don’t want to touch fecal matter.
- Find out more about the Wisconsin State Cow Chip Throw
2. Cabbage Chuck World Championship – Shiocton
It’s a bird. It’s a plane. It’s flying coleslaw! Soaring sauerkraut! Cabbage Patch Kids with wings!
The World Championship Cabbage Chuck, hosted by St. Denis Parish, is an exciting event that takes place every September in Shiocton. But this competition is more than throwing leafy greens. Participants construct creative catapults to launch the cabbage.
Explosives are not allowed, but inventors of cabbage catapults may use compressed air. Some people get real serious about their cabbage chucking and build amazing-looking cabbage cannons.
The cabbages need to weigh between 6 and 10 pounds, which seems pretty huge for a cabbage. That’s how they grow ’em at Shiocton’s Larry Van Straten Farms, which donates its produce for the competition.
Every year there’s an attempt to break the cabbage chucking world record – which was obviously set at the festival.
This weird event is still in its first decade of existence, but it’s bound to be a cherished tradition for generations to come, especially as cabbage chucking technology continues to improve. Local, late-night celebrity Ned the Dead often emcees the chucking…or what!?
- Find out more about the World Championship Cabbage Chuck
3. Watermelon Festival – Pardeeville
We could chuck watermelons in Wisconsin too. But they’re just too tasty to waste.
So the small town of Pardeeville hosts a Watermelon Festival that includes speed-eating and seed-spitting competitions.
Now if you’ve ever participated in a watermelon seed-spitting contest, you know that people with the ability to roll their tongues have an advantage. It makes a sort of barrel from which the seed can be shot out with extra force.
Pardeeville’s Watermelon Fest is the official home of the United States Watermelon Speed-Eating and Seed-Spitting Championships, conveniently abbreviated U.S.W.S.E.S.S.C.
The festival record holder for seed-spitting was set by Pardeeville’s own Clark Hodgson in 1988. He expectorated his seed 61-feet, 3-inches. However. the World Record was set in 1989 by a man in Lulling, Texas. His seed went more than 69 feet.
This festival also includes watermelon carving, a watermelon weigh-in contest, a volleyball tournament and more.
- Find out more about Pardeeville’s Watermelon Fest
4. Pioneer Days Chicken Toss – Ridgeland
We first heard about this strange competition thanks to Wisconsin comedian Tucker Diedrich, who recently told WAPL’s Rick and Len all about it.
Ridgeland’s Pioneer Days festival takes place in February. And what better thing to do in the dead of a Wisconsin winter than throw live chickens off a rooftop into a mob of people?
This is a real thing, although I’m not sure it’s a thing that pioneers did. Apparently, if you catch a chicken, you get to keep it. That’s according to the person who posted the YouTube video of the Chicken Toss in Ridgeland.
“Headed home with them, built a coop, and are expecting eggs soon.”
Tucker explained that it is against the rules for chicken catchers to use a net. He claims that’s because organizers were concerned with chicken necks getting caught in the netting and injured. But throwing them off a roof is totally fine!
Years ago, the group United Poultry Concerns expressed concern with the treatment of the chickens and contacted the Dunn County district attorney. However, the chicken tossing tradition has continued. It actually sounds like some of the hens get nice homes after being caught.
5. Hog Wrestle – Caldron Falls
Other Wisconsin communities also hold pig wrasslin’ events, but the one in mid-July at Caldron Falls Bar and Grill is considered “world famous” and has been going on for 30 years.
There’s not much to explain. A team of four people gets into a mud pit with a big hog and tries to wrestle it onto a padded beer barrel. Despite being outnumbered, the porcine competitors seem to have an advantage over their human opponents. The hogs are in their natural element after all.
Plenty of beer drinking and partying is done by those in attendance. Well, maybe not the hogs, but I wouldn’t put it passed them.
- Find out more about the Caldron Falls Bar & Grill Hog Wrestle
6. Sputnik Fest – Manitowoc
If you aren’t familiar with how the Wisconsin lakeshore is connected to a famous Russian satellite, you might need the backstory first.
In September of 1962, a 20-lb piece of the Sputnik IV satellite crashed in the middle of Manitowoc – landing near the corner of North 8th and Park Streets.
Can you think of a better reason to celebrate than a piece of space junk landing in your town? Truthfully, it was a part of space exploration history that made impact in Manitowoc.
The Sputnik IV was considered a precursor to human spaceflight. It was used to test conditions in outer-space for maintaining life, and even had a cosmonaut dummy named Ivan inside it, as well as a dog, some mice and a guinea pig.
Sputnik IV had issues with its guidance system, which pointed the capsule in the wrong direction, causing a piece of debris to end up in Manitowoc.
Reader’s Digest named Manitowoc’s Sputnik Fest one of the “Top 5 Funkiest Festivals” in the nation, and the city works hard to live up to that title. The event holds an alien costume contest for pets, names a Space Debris Queen and there’s live entertainment and food too!
- Find out more about Sputnik Fest
7. UFO Days – Elmwood
Another space-themed Wisconsin festival takes place every year in Elmwood. However, this one isn’t so much rooted in space travel history as it is unexplained visits from unknown galaxies.
Elmwood is know for a higher-than-average number of UFO sightings, like the one in this YouTube clip. A NY Times journalist even investigated occurrences in the small town.
We’ve told you the famous story of an area police officer’s experience, which may have been fatal, in our article on Close Encounters & UFO sightings in Wisconsin.
Every July, the people of Elmwood have some fun with the notoriety and host a family-friendly festival where folks dress in crazy costumes and enjoy a UFO-themed parade, live entertainment and other activities.
- Find out more on the Elmwood UFO Days Facebook Page
8. The Found Footage Festival
A trio of western Wisconsin buddies with some extra time on their hands dreamed up this international traveling festival. Using the word “weird” to describe it seems like an understatement.
The founders of the Found Footage Festival started collecting oddly hilarious videotapes they found at garage sales. Then they began showing clips at parties, and continued doing so while attending UW Eau Claire.
If you check out what they’ve curated, you’ll find everything from music videos about pet rocks to a 1997 instructional video on “How to Have Cybersex…on the Internet.” But it gets even stranger than that!
Two of the friends, Joe Pickett and Nick Prueher, ended up pursuing independent filmmaking and started the Found Footage Festival as a way to support a documentary project.
While the fest now makes its home in New York, it’s also maintained a Wisconsin connection over the years. There was a Found Footage Show on The Onion‘s website, and one of the fest’s DVDs was recorded in Milwaukee.
Plus, the so-called FFF will also be part of the first-ever Eaux Claires Festival in the summer of 2015.
What Did We Miss?
This is what we could dig up. But we’re also pretty sure there are a lot of other weird things going on in Wisconsin.
So tell us what else should be on this list. Leave a comment and tell us about the other crazy competitions and funky festivals in our state!
For more Wisconsin fun – check out our post on 12 Food-filled Festivals.