5 Unique Food Festivals For Your Summer VacationFood & Wine, Parties, Festivals & Events, United States — By Nancy Y on July 26, 2011 at 12:00 pm
by Nancy Yeomans
LG Air Travel News Editor
It’s finally summertime and everywhere you look cities and towns across the U.S. are showing off. Food festivals of all types crop up almost every weekend, and there is no better way to get to know an area than by its cuisine. A regional festival will often showcase a particular food that you may have never encountered or even heard of before. So much the better if it’s an unusual taste or something that’s hard to find elsewhere. Try one of these or seek out your own offbeat food festival…you may discover something you never knew you liked.
A pierogi is a carbo-loaders dream. This Eastern European invention of pasta stuffed with mashed potatoes, onions and/or cheese is definitely not on the South Beach diet plan. The Pierogi Fest, held the last weekend in July in Whiting, Indiana, is where you’ll stuff yourself silly with these pasta pillows while looking silly wearing a babushka. Engage in a pierogi eating contest, grab your other half and enter the pierogi toss or kick up your heels at the polka-hontas polka contest. Definitely visit the beer garden to wash your pierogi down the right way. Two hundred thousand visitors can’t be wrong.
2. Gilroy Garlic Festival
Gilroy, California is located just about an hour south of San Francisco and even if you didn’t know you were there, you’d recognize it by the smell. It’s the Garlic Capital of the world and the last weekend of July is devoted to the bulb. The Gilroy Garlic Festival has been in existence since 1979 and has grown to attract more than 100,000 visitors. The two tons of garlic that is consumed over the weekend is used in more ways than you can imagine: garlic chocolate, garlic watermelon, garlic frogs’ legs, garlic jelly and fried garlic, just to name a few. Other events include a recipe contest and the Great Garlic Cookoff – sponsored by Scope. See Miss Gilroy Garlic crowned and watch Top Chef competitor Angelo Sosa (the cute one) work his magic in person.
3. Binghamton Spiedie and Balloon Fest
Unless you’re familiar with upstate New York, you may have never heard of Binghamton and most certainly have never had spiedies. What are spiedies? They are small pieces of marinated meat – chicken, lamb, beef or pork – skewered and grilled. These delicious morsels are a local specialty, so the first weekend in August is always dedicated to the Spiedie and Balloon Fest. Since 1984 this event, held at Otsiningo Park, has drawn crowds of more than 100,000 people. If you’re not a carnivore, come for the music, hobnob with reality stars and sports figures, or compete in the 5K run or volleyball tournament. Even better, reserve your space in a hot air balloons during one of five scheduled launches. But at least try a spiedie.
4. Maine Lobster Festival
Lobster. Just the word conjures up images of the succulent crustacean drenched in melted butter. Get your fill in Rockland, Maine during the first weekend in August…actually starting the Wednesday prior. Since 1947 the Maine Lobster Festival has been serving up lobster in a plethora of ways, as well as many other types of seafood. The festival started as an all-you-can-eat-for-$1 event – they lost money – and has evolved into a five-day extravaganza involving more than 20,000 pounds of steamed lobster. Check out the crowning of the Sea Goddess, try your hand at the cooking contest or work off your indulgence by entering the 10K run or 5K walk. If you’ve ever wanted to walk on water, enter the lobster crate race, during which you’ll run across a series of lobster crates submerged in water.
5. Alligator Festival
An alligator is so much more than a scary swamp creature. During the third weekend of September it’s also sausage, pie and burgers. Head to Luling, Louisiana, about 25 miles west of New Orleans, for the St. Charles Rotary Alligator Festival to try these and more exotic delicacies. Since 1980, the Rotary Club of Luling has been hosting this festival and the club president has the honor of being named Mr. Alligator for the year. Even if you’re not so gastronomically adventurous, check out the live entertainment, amusement rides and the alligator stomp fun run. If you go and try any of the offerings, let us know if it tastes like chicken.
Photo credit: IndyDinawithMr.Wonderful, danpeng1, -bLy- /flickr