A bowl of stew
At the Roadkill Cookoff, a bowl of stew might have possum in it. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

On Sept. 24, the Autumn Harvest Festival and Roadkill Cook-off begins in Marlinton, W.Va., where adventurous patrons can dine on critters culled from the highway. It’s one of many food festivals that could be seen as slightly off-kilter.

Biscuits with squirrel gravy and possum stew

The town of Marlinton, W.Va., swells with people during the annual Autumn Harvest Festival, put on by the Pocahontas County Chamber of Commerce. The festival is also known for its interesting culinary event, known as the Roadkill Cook-off. Last year, according to MSNBC, 18,000 people flocked to the event.

Roadkill creations can be sampled by purchasing a $2 wristband, though it isn’t required that the animals be actual roadkill. It’s only required that it’s an animal that is commonly found on the roadside. Events include a rubber duck race in the Greenbrier river, a”Roadkill Rodeo” and crowning Miss West Virginia Roadkill.

According to CNN, the “roadkill cook-off” was thought up by event organizers in 1991, when they were looking for something to punch up attendance. Apparently it worked, because every hotel room in Pocahontas County gets booked on the day of the event.

Odd food appeals to masses

Food that is somewhat off the beaten path does attract a crowd. The Roadkill Cook-off, for instance, has been steadily increasing attendance since its inception in 1991. In 2008, according to CNN, it attracted 10,000 people and 18,000 in 2010, according to MSNBC.

Another MSNBC article from 2008 lists some other interesting food festivals. There’s North Carolina’s Bugfest, held at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences. Visitors can enjoy various dishes made with insects, such as “mealworm marinara” and stir-fried grasshoppers.

The San Fernando Menudo Festival features recipes for menudo, the Mexican term for tripe, or cow’s stomach. South Carolina has the Chitlin’ Crawl, celebrating the “chitlin.” Chitlins are pig intestines.

More unconventional fare

In Hawaii, there’s the Waikiki Spam Jam, featuring a wide variety of dishes made with Spam. Nearly 7 million cans of Spam are eaten in Hawaii every year, according to CNN.

Bellevue, Pa., celebrates the town’s Scots heritage by having its annual Haggis Hunt and Festival, according to PittsburghLive.com. “Haggis hunting” is a Scottish joke, similar to hunting jackalopes in the United States. However, the event culminates in what’s called a Burns Supper, with haggis, “neeps and tatties” or mashed potatoes and turnips, and peas. Haggis, according to Wikipedia, is a sheep’s stomach stuffed with various ground meats, grains and spices.

Some festivals inspire protests

According to CNN, online protests led to an upcoming dog-eating festival in China being canceled for the first time in 600 years. Eating dogs is an old practice in China, but it seems to be on its way out as fewer people see it as acceptable.

In June, protests led to a dog-meat festival being canceled in South Korea, according to the Huffington Post.

Sources

MSNBC: http://overheadbin.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2011/09/16/7798251-hit-the-brakes-for-the-west-virginia-roadkill-cook-off

CNN: http://articles.cnn.com/2009-05-14/travel/food.festivals_1_spam-fried-rice-food-festivals-garlic?_s=PM:TRAVEL

MSNBC: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/24841771/ns/travel/t/bizarre-food-festivals/#.Tnzwj2WP-_0

PittsburghLive: http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/news/pittsburgh/s_596938.html

Wikipedia on Haggis: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haggis

CNN: http://globalpublicsquare.blogs.cnn.com/2011/09/22/china-bans-ancient-dog-eating-festival-after-online-uproar/

Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/06/28/south-korea-dog-meat-festival-cancelled-_n_886427.html

 

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