We're not telling you to plan your autumn agenda around these wonderfully weird gatherings, but if you happen to be meeting in the neighborhood...
World Chicken Festival
Sept. 22-25, London, Ky.
This will be the 22nd annual celebration of all things poultry here in London, Ky., in the heart of Daniel Boone National Forest, where the catchphrase is "Feel the Egg-citement!" Among the events are the Grand Parade (this year's theme: "Something to Crow About"; participants strut down Main Street in homemade chicken costumes). A colorful midway features games of skill (e.g., the inevitable egg toss) and entertainment comes from the likes of Jerry Isaacs' Red Hen Boogie Band. Don't miss the display of the World's Largest Skillet -- an impressive 700-pound, 11-gauge, hot-rolled, stainless-steel beauty that requires some 300 gallons of cooking oil to fry up 600 quarters of chicken at a time.
Boogie Woogie Fire Ant Festival
Oct. 7-8, Marshall, Texas
We're talking about the red imported fire ant, so named because it was accidently brought into the States in the 1930s aboard a South American freighter docked in Mobile, Ala., and now infests much of the South. And it stings. So, heck, let's gather at the historic Courthouse Square in downtown Marshall and celebrate the critter with a fire-ant calling contest, "gurning" (ugly face-making), a diaper derby (don't ask), lots of food and much more.
Banner Elk Woolly Worm Festival
Oct. 15-16, Banner Elk, N.C.
The highlight here is the worm race, during which the little crawlers hustle upward on "lanes" of string, with the winning "coach" pocketing a cool $1,000. The victorious worm (actually a caterpillar) is then examined by forecasters, who can predict the severity of the upcoming winter based on the champ's colors with an 85 percent rate of accuracy as recorded over the 24-year history of the fest. There's also "performances by dance teams and local entertainment," and a competition known as the Woolly Worm Woad Wace (something Elmer Fudd would love).
World Championship Punkin Chunkin
Nov. 4-6, Nassau, Del.
"It all started back in 1986," says John Ellsworth, one of the founders, on the event's website. "We were playing around one day and somebody started talking about throwing pumpkins." From that fateful (if ridiculously random) conversation came 26 years (and counting) of annual chunkins, in which competitors use homemade devices -- we're talkin' catapults, air cannons, centrifugal-force contraptions -- to send pumpkins flying into a field, with the farthest shot the winner. Of course, there's also a Miss Punkin Chunkin Beauty Pageant and lots of guess-what pie. Last year's event involved 72 teams, drew more than 20,000 attendees, and grossed more than $100,000 in ticket sales and associated revenues. More than $70,000 of the take went to community organizations.
Nov. 26, Salley, S.C.
When it comes to the essence of our existence on this lonely blue planet, it's really all about the chitlin's -- aka chitterlings, or fried pig intestines. This festival, now in it's 46th year, celebrates a legendary staple of Southern cuisine by way of food and craft vendors, the obligatory parade and beauty pageant (admit it, you'd rather be called the Chitlin' Queen than Miss Fried Pig Intestine), various hawg-calling and strut contests, and even an Antique Tractor Show. This internationally known event is an annual seismic jolt for the otherwise sleepy town of Salley (pop. 398), where the local rabbi likely takes a powder till the whole thing blows over.