9 strangest food festivals around the world

From getting the perfect mashed potato mudpack to skiing with melon 'boots’, Adelina Storkaas gets her teeth stuck into fabulously unique festivals where food is the star of the show, if rarely put in your mouth

4 mins

1: Noche de Rábanos, Mexico

Radish sculpture at Noche de Rábanos (Secretaría de Turismo del Estado de Oaxaca)

You don’t need to make an effort to avoid feeling stuffed at this rather different Christmas festival in the Mexican city of Oaxaca. Even though edible radishes as big as two feet long are the main attraction, people are discouraged to eat the roots. Instead, at the traditional Night of the Radishes, artists take part in competitions where they carve the veggies into cultural or religious figures, such as the Virgin Mary. 

Mexican farmers and other locals have been turning radishes into sculptures and art pieces from as early as the 16th century, when the root was first brought into the country by Spanish monks. As the tradition lived on, Noche de Rábanos became an official festival, with a competition that continues to be fiercely fought out between radish artists every December. 


2: Testicle Festival, United States

Tourist touches bull testicle (Dreamstime)

No need to do any medical training to see more than a fair share of testicles. But you do need to have turned 21, at least if you want to get into the Rock Creek Lodge’ adults-only festival just outside Montana, USA.

Children and youngsters wont get through the gates of the fest where 2.5 tonnes of testicles make their entrance - bull testicles, that is. The 15,000 annual visitors feast on the deep-fried bulls' testicles and throw chips made of bulls’ testicles at each other for five days every September. Live music and the specially made Bull Snort Brew beer is also on the menu at the world’s biggest load of balls.


3: Chinchilla Melon Festival, Australia

Competition at the Melon festival (Chinchilla Melon Festival)

Australians in the Queensland town of Chinchilla have found the perfect solution to avoid sore ankles from skiing: they skip the stiff and clumsy snow boots and use melons instead. That way, you can even go skiing in the middle of summer, at least for four days in February at this off festival that takes place every two years. 

The ’melon capital’ of Australia, about 300 km from Brisbane, Chinchilla turns into a melon spectacle when people from all over the world come to the small community. As well as going ’melon skiing’ along a slope with their feet in hollow watermelons and participating in melon chariot races, there's a final food fight, with plenty of melon, to close the world’s biggest melon festival. 


4: La Tomatina, Spain

People throwing tomatoes at La tomatina festival (Comunitat Valenciana)

Everything goes with ketchup: hot dogs, fish fingers and, it turns out, humans. At least, that's how it seems at the world’s biggest food fight in Spain, which ends with thousands of people covered in hundreds of tons of overripe tomatoes.

The number of people in the small Spanish town Bunol, 40km from Valencia on Spain's southeast coast, more than triples in the end of August, with the attending crowd turning bright red.

Even though La Tomatina, the Tomato Throwing Festival, is peaceful, only 20,000 people are now allowed to take part. Prior to 2013, up to 50,000 people threw tomatoes at each other on the streets on this special day. 


5: Barnesville Potato Festival, United States

Wrestling game at the Potato Festival (Potato Days Festival & Record Review)

In need of a proper peeling that will leave you feeling chipper? Then what could be more appealing than a visit to a place with years of spud experience and a unique potato mud mask as part of the bargain?

For two days in August, the small town of Barnesville in Minnesota celebrates the versatile veggie that can be peeled, mashed, boiled, fried and apparently also turned into a wrestling platform. The American town is known for its potato production and many of the 20,000 visitors at the Potato Festival end up with it in more places than the mouth, as well as wrestling in a kind of potato stew.


6: Fête du Citron, France 

Champagne bottle decorated with citrus fruit at Fête du Citron (Dreamstime)  

Vitamin C is in abundance in the French town of Menton on the French Riviera of southeast France in this zesty festival that takes place for three weeks every year, usually across February and March. The 145 tonnes of local lemons and oranges are used to decorate the city, though, rather than being eaten.

300 people put together ten metre-tall displays of castles, dragons, champagne bottles and trains, which are constructed or decorated with the citrus fruit. About 160,000 people visit the Lemon Festival (Fête du Citron) to enjoy the temporarily yellow and orange town and the artworks that fill the streets.


7: Cheese-Rolling Festival, England 

Cheese and people rolling down Cooper's hill (Visit England/ Diana Jarvis)

You might be able to beat a mayonnaise, but beating a cheese downhill is an entirely different story. Many men, women and kids have tried over the years in Gloucestershire in England, but been let down by the cheese’s superior speed and perfect shape.

Running as fast as they can down Cooper's Hill at high speed on the Late Spring Bank Holiday Monday, some of them have even accidentally mimicked the 8lb (3.6kg) Double Gloucester's moves and rolled down after it, with multiple injuries across the years.

4,000 people come to view the cheese-rolling and the competitors’ bold attempts to catch up with it every year in May.


8: La Merengada, Spain

Sweets (Dreamstime)

Many cultures embrace sweet treats on the pre-Easter Tuesday that goes by many names (Shrove Tuesday, Fat Tuesday, Mardi Gras or Pancake Tuesday). But in Vilanova i La Geltrú, locals celebrate the day before Lent slightly differently. 

Here, the people don't toss pancakes or stuff their mouths with buttery buns. Instead, La Merengada is an epic battle where the weapons are meringue and cream, which are thrown around at each other until the crowd is covered in gooey white. 

Afterwards, everyone switches to a different arsenal: confectionary. Another battle ensues, Batalla de Caramelos, where sweets and thrown around, to the delight of local kids who can gather them up. Even Willy Wonka would be impressed by the passion and surreal scenes at this Spanish town, in the province of Barcelona, as it becomes a colourful battlefield with locals, visitors and sweets filling the streets.


9: Galway Oyster Festival, Ireland 

Oyster opening competition at Galway's festival (Dreamstime) 

Speed, dexterity and efficiency will serve you well when you're opening up oysters in Ireland. For three minutes, people from all over the world eat as many local oysters as they possibly can, to try to beat the eye-watering 2005 record of 233.

As well as the Irish and World Oyster Opening competition, parades and seafood
trails fill the Irish town during the oldest oyster festival in the world. Up to 22,000 people feast on tons of oysters and other fresh seafood in Galway, which has been celebrating its rich harvest in September every year since 1954. It's a must for foodies.


Main image: La Tomatina festival in Spain (Dreamstime)

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