Few of us have summer vacation anymore, at least the way we used to in school, but there’s still that melancholy feeling towards the end of August, beginning of September and if you’re not careful, you’ll find yourself extending that dog day feeling all the way through to Labor Day. Obviously, the solution is to find yourself a distraction.
And for anyone worried we left the time Americans used to do weird shit to distract themselves, we have some good news. Americans are still thinking of unique ways to send off the summer and with how well populated a lot of these things are, traditional American weird-shit exceptionalism is as healthy as ever. Here are the most unique end-of-summer parties you need to attend.
Northbeach’s Song Graveyard
Dewey Beach, Delaware
Dewey Beach in southern Delaware has a reputation as a party town, drawing thousands from the surrounding area every summer and Northbeach is one of the more popular venues in town. It’s a great beach bar with live music, sand floors, plenty of bars and alcohol, an almost intimidatingly friendly staff, and a great nightlife. While you’re there, you might notice a few driftwood grave markers along the wall.
That’s the song graveyard and in it lies party songs that the bar will never play again. Every year since 2010, Northbeach has taken a song, killed it, and buried it in its graveyard. The process starts in mid-July, when they take nominations from fans on their Facebook page. Later, after everyone’s had plenty of time to put out a hit on their least favorite/most overplayed song, voting starts. Whatever wins gets put in the ground.
But not until after it’s played for about four hours straight and everyone is praying for a bout of hysterical deafness. This is a musical murder after all and what better way to celebrate it than reminding everyone of why it is they’re murdering something in the first place.
Songs that are now six feet under include “Blurred Lines” in 2013, “Party Rock Anthem” in 2011, and “Watch Me (Whip/Nae Nae)” last year. They don’t seem to make bad choices either. For most of the songs they’ve buried, no one seems to be missing them.
All this takes place during Northbeach’s closing weekend, with locals and close friends being the most common attendees at the morbid event. Bartenders who’ve spent the whole summer behind the bar often come out to pal around with coworkers and friends who they might not see for another nine months or so and staff’s a little more relaxed, so you can expect a chill, beachy vibe to ride out the last days of your vacation. Link
The West Virginia Roadkill Cook-Off
Marlinton, West Virginia
September 23rd and 24th
If there’s an American carnivore who doesn’t like barbecue, we’ve yet to meet them. Barbecue’s about as American as you can cook something, if we take a second to blissfully forget we’ve deep fried sticks of butter. Every state south of the Mason-Dixon claims there’s nothing like their barbecue, but so far we’ve only found one place that’s true.
In Marlinton, West Virginia, there’s the annual tradition of the Roadkill Cook-off and Autumn Harvest Festival. You have to admire the West Virginians on this one, since they’re really not burying the lead. No one there doesn’t know what they’re eating.
What they’re getting, if it wasn’t clear already, is a meal that features roadkill. The official rules state the participants are required to have “as their featured ingredient, any animal commonly found dead on the side of the road – groundhog, opossum, deer, bear, crow, squirrel, snake, turkey, etc.” Which, we have to say, bear? What are they driving down in West Virginia that can kill a goddamn bear? Are they all tooling around in army surplus Abrams?
There are few regulations for actually cooking the meat beyond it can’t be precooked but has to be gutted, skinned, and cleaned beforehand, and that it has to be safe to eat. We have to admit, that makes us feel a little better, since our initial image of the festival was people eating whole opossum like a turkey leg.
There’s also music, square dancing, games for children, a 5k (to work off all that groundhog), a dog show, and other foods among other things. The good news is, if you don’t want to eat roadkill you don’t have to. But if you didn’t want to eat roadkill, why’d you go in the first place? Link
The Ugly Mug’s National Froth Blowing Competition
Cape May, New Jersey
Drinking games can be hit or miss. There are some we like and some we’re glad we left behind in college, while only a few achieve the status that classics like Beer Pong and Flip Cup enjoy. We’re not so set in our ways that we don’t look for new games though and the Ugly Mug’s Froth Blowing Competition is one that we may have to add to our list of favorites.
Every year, the bar is packed to bursting with people who want to get in on the action or just have a few drinks while they watch. Basically, the competition is, contestants are given a beer with a big foamy head on it and they have to blow the foam off the top while keeping beer in. Whoever blows the most foam, wins.
Veteran contestants devise their own ways to practice and, yes, people practice. Just because it’s simple doesn’t mean it’s easy. Walking is simple and people still trip.
It’s a fundraiser too. The five dollar entry fee supports the Police Athletic League, so the fierce competition means the cops are making out like bandits. Which may not have been the best way to phrase that, but we’re rolling with it.
The reality of the day is, newcomers will probably be beaten by locals and bartenders, but that definitely shouldn’t stop you from trying. Some people are just naturals when it comes to simple competitions. Plus, it’s not like they kick you out if you lose. Stick around, have a drink, and watch the masters ply their craft. Maybe you’ll pick up a few tips you can use next year. Link
Wisconsin State Cow Chip Throw
Prairie du Sac, Wisconsin
September 2nd and 3rd
Humans love to throw things. It’s like our second favorite activity after drinking, which often causes throwing things. So maybe it’s our first favorite activity.
Something interesting also happens when people start throwing things in that they can get to the point where they don’t seem to care what it is they’re throwing. That’s our theory for how this even started. Just a couple dudes in the fields got in a throwing type of mood but there was only one thing around. Luckily, there was a lot of it.
The event’s basically a discus throw for cow chips. Just to make sure we’re all on the same page here, cow chips are discs of cow poop. Got it? Good. Glad we can all be adults about this. Contestants get two chips when they enter and whichever of their throws goes farther is the one they count. It’s actually about as straightforward as a shit-throwing contest can be. No frills, no extra rules, just throw your shit the farthest.
Although, there is one rule the website’s weirdly insistent on, which is you’re not allowed to wear gloves but licking your hands is okay. It’s supposed to give you a better grip. That’s great, and we’re happy they’re giving people tips on how to compete more effectively, but there’s a point where it goes from a tip to where it seems like the people of the Wisconsin State Cow Chip Throw just really want you to lick shit off your hands.
There’s plenty of other attractions at the event, since it is a state fair type event. There’s food, music, arts & crafts, games, face painting, and plenty more to keep you entertained. But make no mistake, the main draw is the flying pieces of manure. Good to know evolution hasn’t taken that from us completely. Link
Electric Zoo: Wild Island
Randall’s Island, New York
September 2nd, 3rd, and 4th
Music festivals have been a mainstay of warmer weather since there was a difference between warm and cold weather. It’s a guarantee that if you were standing in a market square in whatever the Greeks called September of 400 BC, there’d be a guy with a lyre on stage and women throwing their tunics at him. Electronic music gets a little weirder, but they’re all just music festivals and besides, the unique thing here isn’t that there’s a music festival. It’s where they decided to have their shindig.
New York City is built on islands. Manhattan is an island, Queens and Brooklyn are on the west end of Long Island, and while the Bronx is on the southern tip of New York State mainland, we can all admit that there are aspects of the Bronx that are island-like.
So it says something when islands diffused through the city-state are known as Islands of the Undesirables. New Yorkers, as it turns out, saw the smaller islands as solutions to a lot of problems. Namely, problems that were dead, poor, children, insane, crippled, or, for a little while, Irish.
Randall’s Island is no exception. During the 1800s, it was home to asylums, hospitals, and orphanages, including the totally and actually named Idiot Asylum, the New York City Asylum for the Insane, and the notorious House of Refuge, which was basically adult prison for children. There’s also an area on the island that was once officially designated Negro Point, just in case you were wondering if 19th Century New Yorkers were subtle.
There was also that time in the 1840s when Ward Island, the island Randall’s Island merged with, played host to the reburial of approximately 100,000 bodies coming from Madison Square Park and Bryant Park. No one knows if the bodies are still there either, so don’t go digging any holes in any parks.
Now they host an EDM festival on the island. Which is like hosting Woodstock in an abandoned insane asylum built on an Indian Burial Ground. Link
Coarsegold Historic Village, Coarsegold, California
This one’s a little later in the year, not going off until late October, but it feels like the right festival to close this list. It’s advertised as an awareness festival and to the event organizers we say, we’re all aware of tarantulas. Believe us, in the deepest reaches of the night in the darkest corners of our brains, there’s very little else we’re aware of.
But we get it. They’re probably misunderstood and could use some time in the spotlight. At least time that wasn’t spent as the villain of a nature documentary or as the supposed harbinger of the end times. They’re even, the argument could be made, cute, if you look at them just right and spend enough time with them. There’s also no denying that children have a morbid curiosity when it comes to hand-sized arachnids. So, sure, we get it.
The festival’s only on for a day, but there’s plenty to do. There are eating competitions, music, crafts, and pumpkin themed food and activities. So standard fare for any festival at the same time. But at a spider themed festival there have to be spider themed events, so there are also hairy leg and screaming competitions as well as two separate tarantula races, including the Tarantula Derby, which has absolutely destroyed families through both arachnophobia and gambling.
There’s also a poetry contest as well. No word on this year’s guidelines yet, but we can guess what the theme is. Link