The 6 quirkiest events from around the world
Been to one too many food and wine festivals? Are music events ho-hum? Are folk fairs becoming too … well, folksy? If you’re seeking to incorporate something a little different in your next travel adventure, why not consider some of these quirky events?
Billed as the “world’s biggest food fight”, La Tomatina gives you the opportunity to temporarily regress to childhood and relive your toddler days by literally throwing food at your travel buddies. And not just any food: tomatoes. One hundred tonnes of over-ripe tomatoes squishing between your fingers, toes, and everywhere in between.
Held in Spain in late August in the town of Buñol near Valencia, there are differing reports as to how the festival started, although it is believed to have originated around 1945. It might have been the result of a youthful food fight, an argument, or bystander’s anger at a local politician. However it began, the townspeople enjoyed it so much, they decided to repeat it again the next year. If you decide to indulge your inner urge to hurl food at other people, it pays to take heed of the local tomato throwing etiquette: make sure you squash the tomatoes a little in your hand before throwing to reduce the impact. And don’t even dream of wearing your clothes again.
The Roswell UFO Festival
Held each year around June/July in Roswell, New Mexico, USA, the Roswell UFO Festival is comprised of a number of events ranging from the super-serious to somewhat frivolous.
For those who like their UFO festival to be a little playful, there’s a contest for the best alien costume, an alien float parade, and the 5k/10k alien chase run. You might even consider combining the events to re-live those childhood memories of watching ET: dress up like an alien and then run like the FBI is chasing you.
Pets don’t miss out either – suit up man’s best friend in your favourite alien pet outfit, and Rover could bring home first prize in the alien pet costume contest! For those of a more serious bent, there are also lectures and discussions about that famous Roswell event. Do you believe?
The Night of the Radishes (Noche de Rábanos)
More vegetables! An annual event in the city of Oaxaca, Mexico, Noche de Rábanos forms part of local Christmas celebrations. Radishes – which were introduced to Mexico by the Spanish – are carved into all kinds of designs by local artists who transform them into anything from kings to weird and wonderful creatures. The tradition may have originally started as a way for stall holders to stand out in a crowded Christmas market, but Night of the Radishes has now become a full-blown art competition with buyers eager to purchase a masterpiece for their Christmas table centrepiece. Specific radishes are grown for the competition and distributed to entrants prior to the competition judging on 23 December.
If you’ve ever sliced a radish for a salad, you’d know that once they’re cut, they don’t last long. The fragility of radishes once they’ve been carved makes for a wonderfully ephemeral display.
Scarlet Sails/White Nights, Saint Petersburg, Russia
Set in what is arguably one of the most beautiful cities in the world, White Nights – or "Alye Parusa" as it’s known in Russian – takes place during the weeks around the summer solstice when the sun doesn’t set until late and the nights never become truly dark. Many cities in Europe now host White Nights festivals, but the original was in Saint Petersburg and features a range of cultural events such as ballet, opera, music and other performances.
One of the highlights of the festival is “Scarlet Sails” which evolved from a fairy tale love story of the same name. Scarlet Sails has gained its popularity as a result of the visual extravaganza it provides. With an amazing fireworks display and spectacular boats sailing up the Neva River toward the Winter Palace, it’s hard to know where to look. The ships’ sails are lit up bright scarlet, celebrating summer and the end of the school year.
Tunarama, Port Lincoln, South Australia
In Port Lincoln when they think of tuna, they don’t think sushi, or ceviche, or even “lightly grilled”. No, in Port Lincoln it’s all about how far you can throw your tuna. Held in January, the Tunarama festival includes your standard festival agenda of food and wine and even sporting events like a fun run and triathlon. But at its heart, Tunarama is really all about the seafood – with a twist. Headlining spectacles include: the Prawn Toss, the Prawn Peeling competition, the kids-only Kingfish Toss, and – of course – the headliner Tuna Toss World Championship.
The tuna toss was introduced in 1979 and actually has a solid link to local lore. As a port with tuna fishing as a core industry, tossing tuna from boats to waiting trucks was part of daily working life. When young job-seekers wanted to join the industry, they had to prove their mettle by showing their tuna tossing prowess.
Flower Carpet, Brussels, Belgium
Picture this: a spectacular carpet made of more than one million brightly coloured flowers laid out in Brussel’s historic 15th Century Grand-Place – one of the world’s most historic and beautiful central squares.
Every two years, more than 100 volunteers put together this incredible work of art in only four hours. Comprised entirely of Begonias, the carpet measures 77m x 24m and completely transforms the Grand-Place. The flowers are densely packed, with around 300 cut flowers per square metre.
The biennial flower carpet attraction began with the work of a landscape architect, Etienne Stautemas, who together with his team and designer Mark Schautteet, produced the first carpet in 1971. The team went on to create carpets in many different cities around the world. However the Brussels carpet was renowned as the biggest and best. The next Flower Carpet is due to be held in August 2016 and will celebrate Japan, and 150 years of diplomatic relations between Japan and Belgium.
If you can’t make it, you can watch the construction online via webcams that cover the square. During non-flower-carpet times, you can just view the beautiful architecture!