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U.S.A: Local Customs

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The amount of fairs, carnivals, celebrations, pageants, parades and hoe-downs on the American calendar is enough to make the hardiest party animal's head spin - events as distinct and diverse as the people that make up its rich heritage.

Festival Name: Blobfest
Festival Type(s): Film, Bizarre
Indescribable... Indestructible! Nothing Can Stop It!' So reads the tagline of the 1950s Sci-Fi classic, The Blob. And nothing seems to be stopping a festival that brings this kitschy film back to life.

Festival Name: Bock Fest
Festival Type(s): Beer
Fasching in February' sounds like an accident involving ligaments torn in a winter storm. But in fact, Fasching is a crack-up of another kind, a big costumed carnival, the German version of Mardi Gras, and one last loop-dee-do before Lent.

Festival Name: Burning Man
Festival Type(s): Art, Performing Art, Bizarre
Black Rock City, as the town centered around Burning Man is known, is now the third largest city in Nevada, although it exists for only one week a year. It is also perhaps one of the best-designed cities in the world. It works wonderfully. It's safe enough for women to walk around naked. It's chock full of fantastic and real art. Transportation is primarily via bicycle. It's got a world-class view of a unique wilderness. Consumption is low and creation is high.

Festival Name: Chicago Festivals
Festival Type(s): Local, Traditional
As I drove into Chicago recently I asked my limousine driver what he liked best about living in Chicago. He replied, 'Chicago is an exhilarating city with a non-ending variety of activities - a great place to have fun and enjoy yourself.'

Festival Name: Faerieworlds Festival
Festival Type(s): Folk
They say that at certain times of the year, the veil between our world and the otherworldly realm of Faerie becomes so thin as to be non-existent. When that occurs, Faeriefolk glide and gambol through this, the human domain, magic fills the air and anything is possible. The date is May 10th, 2003 and once again the veil is at its thinnest. The event to mark this auspicious occasion is the first ever Faerieworlds Festival, a celebration of music, art and imagination for the 21st century.

Festival Name: Farm Aid
Festival Type(s): Music - Rock, Music - Country, Music - Varied
If you like your rock with an American accent, a country twang or a bluesy rhythm, Farm Aid may just be the gig for you. What began in 1985 as yet another in a long line of the era's aid concerts has not only endured but grown to become a rural American institution. Now into its third decade and with the likes of Willie Nelson, Neil Young, John Mellencamp and Dave Matthews advocating the event and playing to crowds in the tens of thousands year in year out, Farm Aid's future all seems pretty rosy.

Festival Name: Great Alaska Beer and Barleywine Festival
Festival Type(s): Beer, Party
There's no better place to get acquainted with new beer styles than at a beer festival. That's especially true of barleywine. The best showcase for the style, and one of the world's biggest, is The Great Alaska Beer and Barleywine Festival in downtown Anchorage.

Festival Name: Green River Rendezvous
Festival Type(s): Indigenous, Historical, Traditional
Kick up the dust. Put on your best cowboy duds and get ready for some real down-home Americana at the Green River Rendezvous in Pinedale, Wyoming, a annual pageant offering a colorful collection of mountain men, explorers, Indians and well orchestrated drama showing the history of the region with a western bent.

Festival Name: Humungus Fungus Festival
Festival Type(s): Fair, Harvest
What is a Humungus Fungus you ask? Several years ago a “humungus fungus” (a GIGANTIC mushroom) was discovered in the Crystal Falls area. It weighs roughly 11 tons and covers 37 acres.

Festival Name: International Kite Festival
Festival Type(s): Kite
Held annually on the 26 mile stretch of Long Beach, Washington, the International Kite Festival is beholden to no one. You don't have to pay to get in, you can bring your own little trash bag kite and fly it on a spool of fishing line amid the behemoths, and everyone is welcome.

Festival Name: Juneteenth
Festival Type(s): Cultural, Multicultural, Historical
On the morning of June 19, 1865, the residents of Galveston, Texas awoke to discover the streets filled with soldiers wearing blue uniforms. The Union Army had arrived in force. A crowd quickly gathered as men and women, blacks and whites, rushed from their homes to learn what was happening.

Festival Name: LEAF - Lake Eden Arts Festival
Festival Type(s): Performing Art, Music - World, Folk
"Being KIND is cool." These are the first words in the Spring 2004 brochure for the Lake Eden Arts Festival (LEAF). Since 1995 this semi-annual festival has nested around Lake Eden in Black Mountain, North Carolina on the site of the historic Black Mountain College (now the site of Camp Rockmont).

Festival Name: Macaroni Festival
Festival Type(s): Local, Food
Victoria, Texas, smack-dab in the heart of the grandest State in the whole United States of America! - continues to age and improve like a fine old wine.

Festival Name: Marblehead Christmas Walk
Festival Type(s): Christmas, Religious, Street Parade
What better way to get into the Christmas spirit than to sing carols by candlelight in the brisk air in a quaint New England seacoast town as the lights of the town tree blink on for the first time. So begins the annual Marblehead Christmas Walk in Marblehead, Massachusetts, part party, part historical tour, and part shopping festival.

Festival Name: Missouri Festivals
Festival Type(s): Local
Missouri has something for everyone. If you are looking for historic towns filled with the memories of yesteryear, antebellum mansions to tour, wineries to taste your way through, natural areas with glorious scenes to fill your eyes with magnificent colors, craft and art galleries, or fascinating shops filled with charming antiques, Missouri offers all of the aforementione...and then some.

Festival Name: Mummers Parade - Philadelphia
Festival Type(s): Street Parade, New Year
The air is usually bitingly cold as each New Years Day, thousands don outlandish costumes and strut to the thumping beat of string bands in a colorful Philadelphia spectacle, The Mummers Parade. They're called Mummers (probably after the German word for disguise), they're mostly white, blue-collar guys who every January 1 - except 1919 and 1934 - have strutted up Broad Street decked out in wild array from head to spray-painted toe in one big absurd, hilarious, fraternal party.

Festival Name: National Finals Rodeo
Festival Type(s): Sport - Extreme, Sport - Equestrian
Although rodeo has been around almost as long as dirt, the National Finals Rodeo (NFR) has a more recent history. The first National Finals Rodeo was held at the Dallas State Fair Grounds in 1959, and since then, has undergone some interesting changes.

Festival Name: New Orlean's Mardi Gras
Festival Type(s): Carnival, Street Parade, Party
Many people do not realize this, but Mardi Gras or rather, CARNIVAL, begins on January 6, the Epiphany, or Kings Day. The parties and parades begin on a very small but widespread scale until the climax on the Wednesday before Lent which is Fat Tuesday.

Festival Name: New Orleans Mardi Gras
Festival Type(s): Carnival, Street Parade, Party
What the hell are we doing in Georgia?' Kevin roared from the back seat of the rented '86 station wagon. We're driving from Florida to New Orleans...there's no Georgia involved in this trip!'

Festival Name: New Orleans Mardi Gras
Festival Type(s): Carnival, Street Parade, Party
Throw me something, Mister! Throw me something!' shout thousands of street revelers to costumed riders on larger than life floats as they shower glittering trinkets over the scrambling crowd below. Parades--60 formal ones at last count and many other informal ones--fantastic costumes, elegant balls and intricately designed tableaux, all essential parts of Mardi Gras, one of the wildest celebrations in the country.

Festival Name: New York City Underground Comedy Festival
Festival Type(s): Comedy
Like to laugh? Who doesn't? Then you'll want to make a point of attending the second annual New York City Underground Comedy Festival. No, you don't venture forth into underground caverns for subway tunnels to enjoy the comedy of up-and coming comics. But you may find yourself in basement cafes and comedy clubs scattered around New York's Greenwich Village.

Festival Name: New York Festivals
Festival Type(s): Local
Recently I traveled to New York City, Atlantic City and Philadelphia and made it a point to check out several of my favorite stores and restaurants.

Festival Name: Nude Olympics
Festival Type(s): Naturist, Bizarre, Adult
There are no sponsors, no endorsements and no Life magazine exposes. This is the third annual Nude Olympics we're talking about and, like the contestants themselves, this event has been stripped of all trappings.

Festival Name: Phoenix Festival
Festival Type(s): Music - Dance, Music - Varied
At 8 a.m. Friday morning, I was sitting on a dry Eastern Washington hill sharing a smoke with two hippies. They'd driven up from San Francisco to play on the Phoenix Family sound system, which was thumping out psychedelic trance on the slope below us. One of the hippies gestured to a long rectangular canvas event tent.

Festival Name: Reggae on the River Festival
Festival Type(s): Music - Reggae, Party
Hyped by some as the best Reggae and World Music Festival in the United States, we couldn’t bear passing up the opportunity to hear tunes from countries such as Brazil, Chile, Cuba, England, Jamaica, the U.S., St. Lucia and Mexico.

Festival Name: San Antonio Wine and Food Festival
Festival Type(s): Food and Wine, Wine
The sparkling new, first-time-ever, 'New World Wine and Food Festival' roared into San Antonio like a comet. If I had to use one word to describe the whole extravaganza I would choose: spectacular.

Festival Name: Tejano-Conjunto Music Festival
Festival Type(s): Music - Traditional, Music - Rock
But mostly they come to listen and stomp their feet to the music of conjunto and the modern rock-influenced Tejano bands. This is essence of the San Antonio's version of a rollicking good-time-The Tejano-Conjunto Music Festival.

Festival Name: Thanksgiving
Festival Type(s): Traditional, Historical, Cultural
Thanksgiving. A joyous celebration of the Old World meeting the New World. How exciting it must have been the day the first settlers stepped foot onto this strange and wonderful world and came face to face with the original natives of this exciting new land. (Not unlike the Grand Opening of a Caldor's.)

Festival Name: Windjammer Days
Festival Type(s): Maritime, Sport - Water
The wind fills her sails as the two-masted schooner, Stephen Taber, otherwise known as a windjammer, leans into a turn to starboard. The sun is hot, but her passengers take advantage of a strong sea breeze to read a book or have a cold beer as she heads towards the waterfront at Boothbay Harbor, Maine, to head the dramatic parade of sail. For this is Windjammer Days, a celebration of the age of sail, held annually the last week of June.

Festival Name: Wurstfest
Festival Type(s): Cultural, Multicultural, Party
Recently, while driving into New Braunsfels, Texas, I was impressed by the small-town charm of the locale. It is evident that the city-fathers have managed to maintain the original old-world, Germanic ambiance. Even before you enter the area, the billboards along IH 35 provide amusing reading-my all-time favorite: 'TACOS-GET STUFFED!'

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