World's Wackiest Competitions
From the Wife-Carrying Competition in Finland to the worldwide sport of extreme ironing, the spirit of competition is alive and well outside the world of the more … traditional … sports.
Wife-Carrying CompetitionFirst introduced in Sonkajärvi, Finland, wife carrying is a sport in which male competitors race through obstacles while each carrying a female teammate -- not necessarily their wife. Different types of carrying are included in the competition: piggyback, fireman's carry, or Estonian-style (pictured here). Major wife-carrying competitions are held in Sonkajärvi (where the prize is the woman’s weight in beer), Hong Kong, Wisconsin, Michigan and Maine. 960 1280
Swamp SoccerSwamp soccer is exactly what it sounds like: soccer played in a swamp or bog. It began as an exercise routine for soldiers since the squishy ground makes the sport more demanding, but it has since grown with the Swamp Soccer World Championship played annually on Vuorisuo Bog in Hyrynsalmi, Finland. 960 1280
Tar Barrels FestivalThe town of Ottery St Mary, England, holds annual events around Guy Fawkes Night. The festivities include a 17th-century tradition of carrying barrels soaked in tar and set on fire while racing through the town. The barrels can only be carried by those born in Ottery St Mary or those who have lived there for most of their lives, with generations of the same family often competing through the years. 960 1280
Extreme IroningExtreme ironing is part extreme sport and part performance art. The competition involves taking an ironing board to a remote location and ironing clothing. It all started in 1997 in Leicester, England, by resident Phil Shaw when he wanted to go rocking climbing instead of doing house chores … so he decided to combine them. It has grown into a worldwide phenomenon with participants vying for the most extreme locale -- ironing on mountainsides, in streets and even underwater. 960 1280
Mobile Phone ThrowingMobile phone throwing is yet another sport that originated in Finland. It began in 2000 and has since grown internationally. Competitors throw mobile phones and are judged on distance or technique. The phones used vary, but they must be heavier than 7 oz. The Mobile Phone Throwing World Championships are held annually in Savonlinna, Finland. 960 1280
Air Guitar ChampionshipsThe first air guitar competitions were held in the 1980s in Sweden and the US and have since continued to grow internationally. The Air Guitar World Championships Network, made up of 20 countries including Finland, the USA, New Zealand, Canada, Romania and Brazil, among others, organizes the competitions -- which follow a sophisticated scoring system. On a 6-point scale, competitors play for 2 1-minute rounds and are judged on technical merit, mimesmanship, stage presence and artistry. 960 1280
Empire State Building RaceHeld annually since 1978, the Empire State Building Run-Up is a foot race where participants run from the building’s ground floor to the 86th-floor observation deck, covering a vertical distance of 1,050 feet in 1,576 steps. The racers like to think of themselves as both runners and climbers. The current record time is 9 minutes and 33 seconds, achieved by Australian professional cyclist Paul Crake in 2003. 960 1280
National Finals RodeoA cowboy casts a cool look during the National Finals Rodeo, popularly known as the “Super Bowl of rodeo.” The 10-day event, held each year in Las Vegas, determines the world champ in 7 main events, including bareback riding, steer wrestling and team roping.
When to go: First full week of December 960 1280
Caldwell Night RodeoThe cowboys are the stars at this annual 5-day rodeo event. Held in the Boise metro area, Caldwell Night Rodeo draws crowds of more than 40,000 people, eager to see the big draw: many of the world’s top professional cowboys who make Caldwell Night Rodeo an annual stop on their circuit.
When to go: Mid-August 960 1280
Pendleton Round-UpReady for some bulldogging? A cowboy reaches for a steer’s horns at the Pendleton Round-Up, one of the 10 largest rodeos in the world. Started in 1910, the annual rodeo event draws crowds of 50,000 to Pendleton, OR, where the town’s motto is, “The Real West.”
When to go: Mid-September 960 1280
Dodge City Roundup RodeoWestern heritage -- and big bucks -- draw championship cowboys and cowgirls to the annual Dodge City Roundup. Since its start in 1977, the 10-day event has grown to include a payout of nearly $254,000, alongside an audience of more than 100,000 people.
When to go: Late July to early August 960 1280
Cheyenne Frontier DaysThe granddaddy of rodeo events, Cheyenne Frontier Days has been held in its namesake Wyoming town since 1897. The outdoor rodeo and western celebration features hundreds of horses performing rodeo events and track acts. The annual event draws nearly 200,000 people, with a whopping 100,000 free pancakes served by the local Kiwanis club.
When to go: Last full week of July 960 1280
Ellensburg RodeoNow in its 75th year, the Ellensburg Rodeo in Washington State has grown from a local competition among ranch hands to a leading rodeo festival: More than 600 contestants vie for prize money in excess of $400,000. In the Pacific Northwest, the rodeo is second in size only to the Calgary Stampede in Alberta, Canada.
When to go: Labor Day weekend 960 1280
Fort Worth Stock Show and RodeoFor 23 heart-pounding days, the annual Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo puts on quite a show at the Will Rogers Memorial Center. The annual event, which draws a crowd of 900,000, showcases the world’s original indoor rodeo, with 36 performances of professional rodeo on display, such as calf roping.
When to go: Mid-January to early February 960 1280
Nebraskaland DaysWild West showman Buffalo Bill considered North Platte, NE, his hometown, and went on to found modern-day rodeo in the city. Today, the legacy continues with Nebraskaland Days: The largest rodeo event in western Nebraska showcases parades, art shows, concerts, food events and, of course, rodeos.
When to go: Mid-June 960 1280
Yellowstone RodeoExciting rodeo action mixes with stunning mountain sunsets at the annual Yellowstone Rodeo in southwestern Montana. The annual event showcases the big rodeo draws -- including bareback bronc riding, bull riding, team roping and saddle broc riding -- as well as a “calf scramble” event in which kids can safely compete.
When to go: June through early September 960 1280
National Western Stock ShowNow in its 106th year, the National Western Stock Show in Denver spans 16 days, and a 100-acre show ground home to the second largest rodeo in the United States. Hands-on animal exhibits feature 15,000 head of horses, cattle, sheep, alpacas, llamas and more -- plus, a chance for the little ones to go giddy-up.
When to go: Last 2 weeks in January 960 1280
RodeoHoustonFor the world’s largest live entertainment and livestock show, head to Houston’s Reliant Stadium. In 2012, this massive 1,900,000-square-foot facility hosted the annual Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo -- and a whole lot of animals: 26,305 livestock and horse show exhibitors competed for a shot at a Houston championship.
When to go: Late February to mid-March 960 1280
Reno RodeoBilled as the “wildest, richest rodeo in the West,” the Reno Rodeo spans 10 days and attracts more than 140,000 fans. Events include a Miss Reno Rodeo Queen pageant, cattle drive, carnival rides and the Xtreme Bull Riding Tour stop, featuring 40 of the world’s best pro bull riders.
When to go: Late June 960 1280
Miss Rodeo AmericaHere she comes, Miss Rodeo America 2012 winner Mackenzie Carr -- the first winner from Oregon. The first pageant was held in Casper, WY, in 1955. Today, the annual pageant is held in Las Vegas, with contestants competing in areas of appearance, horsemanship and personality.
When to go: Early to mid-December 960 1280
Florence Junior ParadaThe world’s oldest continuous junior rodeo finds its home in Florence, AZ. Eighty years since its start, the annual Florence Junior Parada rodeo draws hundreds of future PRCA (Professional Rodeo Cowboys Assocation) cowboys and cowgirls, ages 5 to 18, to compete in rodeo events such as team roping, breakaway roping and even bull riding.
When to go: Late November 960 1280
America's Biggest Rodeos 14 Photos