Arts and Culture

Small Town Festivals Worth Seeing

I generally don’t go to big festivals. Tickets are usually pricey, there’s a shuttle bus and you can barely get around the crowds. Not so at a small town festival. They’re usually easy to get to, take place in a central spot and offer quirky events and performances you could only experience by being there.

Bob Pagani, flickr
Pig ‘N’ Ford Races at the Tillamook Country Fair
Tillamook County, OR
This is hard to explain, even with pictures. But in Tillamook, for more than 80 years, locals have been participating in a race that requires you to grab a pig, crank start a Model T Ford and race around the track. Looking for a greater meaning? Some things are just too much fun to analyze so deeply.
Robert Smith, flickr
Pirate Festival
Eastport, ME
The fact that this is the easternmost city in the United States hasn’t even done much for Eastport. The once-booming sardine industry is long gone, so locals are building back by supporting artists and also embracing their will to be weird. At Pirate Fest, held in the fall, the streets fill with patch-wearing patriots eager to celebrate the region’s heritage, by trading and looting. If you’re up to it, enter the bed race.
Jerry Nelson
Mountain Dance and Folk Festival
Asheville, NC
Folk hero Bascom Lamar Lunsford started this festival in 1928 and it’s been going strong since. Fiddlers, cloggers, banjo-players … they’re all here. You can also just enjoy the beauty of Asheville, with its thriving combination of college kids, country folks and big city transplants.
Alan B, flickr
Ullr Fest
Breckenridge, CO
The great Norse God, Ullr, is considered a patron saint for skiers. Once a year, he comes to Breckenridge, a town largely revived by a pair of Norwegians back in the 1960s. They helped found the town’s booming ski resort. They also started old Ullr Fest, which reaches its 50th anniversary by drawing thousands for friendly competition (frying pan toss, dating game) plus a parade with in which you can proudly wear your fur bikini.
Bean Fest and Outhouse Races
Mountain View, AR
The perfect entry point for those who have never properly appreciated “the natural state.” Tucked in a valley bordering the Ozarks, Mountain View holds an annual event that features top-notch old time musicians on every corner, delicious beans cooked around the town square and the campy and always fun outhouse races. And don’t forget to stop into Woods for a milk shake.

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