Each American state carries a personality all its own, a set of characteristics that sets it apart from every other member of the union. As with any personality, there are oddities and quirks that come along with it, which may explain some of the weirdest state traditions. Every state boasts at least one custom or practice people from other states simply shake their heads at in confusion and wonder. Bizarre state laws and outrageous food laws ensure a state's peculiarities get official notice, but strange state traditions ensure said peculiarities are celebrated.
In most cases, the tradition in question connects to the state in some way. In others, finding a link between the custom and the state is much more difficult. Nevertheless, residents come together to take part in these unusual festivities and celebrate the quirkiness that makes their state unique. In this day and age of divisiveness and division, communities gathering together is a good thing indeed - even if the reasons for such gatherings are a little odd.
Colorado – Frozen Dead Guy Days
Nederland celebrates a bizarre annual tradition that sounds both unsettling and fun. Frozen Dead Guy Days is essentially a race in which teams each carry a coffin with a live person inside through a snowy obstacle course. There's also live music, a salmon toss, and a festive parade of hearses, all done in honor of a very famous frozen dead guy, Bredo Morstoel.
Illinois – No Pants Subway Ride
Chicago is just one city that takes part in the No Pants Subway Ride, an annual event spearheaded by the New York-based group Improv Everywhere. It's just what it sounds like: people ride the city's subways wearing no pants, typically going about their business as usual and raising quite a few eyebrows in the process.
Missouri – Testicle Festival
The tiny Ozark town of Olean holds an annual daylong party for those most underappreciated foodstuffs, animal testicles. Cattle and turkey parts are cooked up, as well as many other dishes, and a carnival accompanies the celebration.
West Virginia – Roadkill Cookoff
Marlington's annual Roadkill Cookoff has drawn the attention of the world. One day each fall, the town's cooks compete to see who can make the tastiest dish from, you guessed it, roadkill. Deer, squirrel, rabbit - if you hit it with your car, it's on the menu.
Texas – Eeyore's Birthday
Austin celebrates the birthday of Eeyore, Winnie the Pooh's depressed friend, every year. The free daylong event includes costume contests, live music, drum circles, and maypoles.
Vermont – Naked Bike Ride
Every night on the last day of classes at the University of Vermont in Burlington, students shed their clothes and ride their bikes through the city. The annual event began in 1996, and live-and-let-live Vermonters don't seem to mind.
Nebraska – Buffalo Chip Throw
At Chadron's yearly Fur Trade Days event, locals come together to celebrate their little corner of the state. One of the highlights of Fur Trade Days, however, has got to be the Buffalo Chip Throw, in which entrants compete to see how far they can throw bison poo.
South Dakota – Mashed Potato Wrestling Contest
Who doesn't love mashed potatoes? The city of Clark took their love to a whole new level when they started their annual Mashed Potato Wrestling Contest in 1997. As part of Clark's Potato Days, contestants duke it out in a vat of smashed spuds.
Georgia – New Year's Eve Possum Drop
Oklahoma – Sucker Day Festival
In the early 1950s, a fraudster scammed Wetumka by tricking the townspeople into giving him their money in exchange for a circus coming to town. Of course, no circus materialized, but the good people of Wetumka refused to wallow in misery: they celebrated. To this day, they hold an annual Sucker Day Festival to keep turning those age-old lemons into lemonade.
Florida – Mullet Toss
No, it's not a contest to toss someone sporting a mullet. The community of Perdido Key gets together every year to hold a festival in which contestants try to throw a mullet fish from Florida into Alabama.
Washington – Gum Wall
In Seattle, there is a piece of experimental art that is both repellant and fascinating. Residents and visitors alike come to the Gum Wall, which is located next to the Pike Place Market, and add their "contribution" to its icky appeal.
Iowa – Butter Sculptures
The butter sculptures of the Iowa State Fair have become so famous they've eclipsed the abundance of other activities and exhibits on display at the annual event. But, oh, what a delightfully strange tradition they are: master carvers from all over the world enter massive sculptures of everything from cows to Harry Potter.
New Hampshire – Exeter UFO Festival
UFOs don't just supposedly land in the deserts of New Mexico. New Hampshire has quite a few UFO-centric cases, including that of Barney and Betty Hill, a couple who claimed to have been abducted by aliens in the 1960s. Exeter honors the state's unusual ties to UFO culture with a festival every September.
Arizona – Ostrich Races
The city of Chandler, a place with a history of ostrich farms, holds an annual Ostrich Festival each spring, drawing hundreds of thousands of attendees. Part of the festivities involves racing live ostriches around a track.
Alaska – Blanket Tossing
In Alaska, several communities take part in something called blanket tossing, which is based on an age-old practice by the Iñupiaq. Basically, someone stands in the middle of a blanket (traditionally a hide) and others grab an edge of the blanket before tossing the person high into the air. Sometimes, the soaring person chucks gifts to an assembled crowd while fighting to keep their balance.
Kentucky – Burying Bourbon Before A Wedding
Every region boasts its own unusual wedding rites and rituals, but Kentucky may just take the cake - or the bottle, as it were. In the Bluegrass State, it's tradition to bury a bottle of bourbon at the site of the wedding before the nuptials take place; superstition says this prevents rain, and the bottle should be buried during weather conditions the couple wants for their big day.
Tennessee – Burgers Cooked In Century-Old Grease
Dyer's Burgers in Memphis is one of the city's go-to spots for delicious hamburgers. Their secret? They claim to fry the burgers in the same grease they've been using since they opened their doors in 1912. The grease is strained every day, and Memphis residents have enjoyed it for more than a century, so it is presumably safe.
Maine – Damariscotta Pumpkinfest
Every Columbus Day weekend, Mainers gather in Damariscotta to celebrate that most beloved of all gourds, the pumpkin. There's the usual festival fare like a parade and pumpkin sculptures. But the crème de la crème is the pumpkin regatta, in which entrants race through the water in hollowed-out pumpkins.
New Mexico – The Burning Of Zozobra
The first weekend in September, Santa Fe residents engage in the burning of Zozobra, a 50-foot-tall statue originally designed by local artist Will Shuster. The ritual symbolizes the burning of bad energy and the emergence of positivity.
Ohio – Doo Dah Parade
Columbus's Doo Dah Parade is a raucous tribute to the freedom of speech. Entrants dress up however they want as a form of self-expression, and they share their opinions openly and entertainingly on any issue about which they feel passionate.
Nevada – Las Vegas Lucky Duck Family Festival
Las Vegas may have all manner of adult entertainment, but the state's most unusual tradition is family-friendly, heartwarming, and a force for good. The Las Vegas Lucky Duck Festival happens each September, and competitors buy rubber ducks and put them in the Towne Square pond for a race; winning duckies bring in prizes, and all money goes to charity.
Kansas – The World's First Red Light District
Massachusetts – Fluff Festival
The delicious goo known as Marshmallow Fluff was invented in the Boston suburb of Somerville. Every fall, the community holds a festival in honor of its most tasty creation, complete with cooking contests, games, live music, and, of course, every Marshmallow Fluff treat you can possibly imagine.
Hawaii – Waikiki Spam Jam
You might think that Spam is a uniquely Midwestern delicacy, but Hawaiians love their Spam in a way that outshines the most ardent Minnesotan. Case in point: the annual Waikiki Spam Jam, a food festival that celebrates all things Spam.