Article by Steve Burgess originally published in the November-April 2019-2020 edition of the Atmosphere magazine. Read the latest edition here.
From hair-freezing contests to donkey pageants, come play at some of the quirkiest events around the world.
Noche de los Rábanos
Oaxaca / Mexico, December 23, 2019
’Twas the night before the night before Christmas and all through the town, people were carving radishes. Animal radishes, musical radishes, a lot of devotional radishes. But radishes, anyway.
In a tradition that dates back well over a century, local residents carve radishes into various creative shapes and put them on display in the Oaxaca town square from noon until midnight for the Night of the Radishes.
The Virgin Mary is a popular subject, as are impressive nativity scenes. But there are also radish dragons, giant radish vultures, entire radish mariachi bands playing little radish guitars.
The radishes are a specially grown variety, best suited for carving rather than cuisine. So please don’t eat the Radish Baby Jesus.
Ideal for: People who want to get back to their roots.
Northern Manitoba’s Trappers’ Festival
The Pas / Manitoba, Canada, February 12-16, 2020
There are a lot of events at this festival. A lot. Think carefully about which ones you want to participate in. Perhaps the King and Queen Trapper competitions, featuring moose calling, leg wrestling and tea boiling. How about the Baby Competition? It’s pretty simple, just give birth during the festival. There’s also a Beard Growing Contest. Nobody has ever won both of those, so it’s something to shoot for. And the Hairiest Chest trophy would make a fine triple crown.
Ideal for: Northern multi-taskers.
Sitges / Spain, February 20-26, 2020
Mattress commercials are always going on about firmness or softness, but they rarely mention one crucial feature: speed. A good aerodynamic platform is essential if one is to win the Sitges Carnival Bed Race, held annually in this town just south of Barcelona as part of the week-long Sitges Carnival. Costumed teams of five push beds through an obstacle course and on to Paseo de la Ribera. Strategy is key, you need strong bed pushers, of course, and you should choose a mattress occupant who’s fairly light and somewhat lazy. Prizes for winning the race, having the best costumes or even best bed.
Ideal for: People who enjoy a quick nap.
Festival del Burro
San Antero / Colombia, April 11-12, 2020
Think of this as sort of a sitcom spinoff. In San Antero there was once an Easter festival with a parade featuring a donkey. Eventually the donkey got its own festival, like Frasier after Cheers. Now it’s all about donkeys—every kind of donkey, except Donkey Kong.
The big event is the donkey parade starring costumed donkeys, with the best ones being crowned King and Queen Donkey at the Donkey Beauty Pageant. Did we mention the donkeys are also wearing makeup? So if anyone tells you to kiss their, umm, donkey, at least it might be wearing lipstick.
There’s also plenty of local food, street theatre and music. Songs from Shrek are welcome.
Ideal for: People who don’t mind sharing their mascara with a friend.
The International Hair Freezing Contest
Whitehorse / Yukon, Canada, Winter 2019-2020
Scheduling can be tricky. Say you were planning a Festival of Photobombing Squirrels, it would be tough to set specific dates. Same with The International Hair Freezing Contest, it requires the right weather. Luckily it’s not usually a long wait. At about -22°C, it’s game on, with competitors first dipping into the Takhini Hot Pools and then photographing their icy looks in creative shapes, a sort of anatomical ice sculpture.
There are $750 prizes for winners in Best Male, Female and Group categories. No prize for Best Bald Guy With a Wig.
Ideal for: Travellers who forgot to pack hairspray.
Go anywhere with Air Transat and visit an original festival right away.
Cover photo credits: Air Transat