By Terry Sweeney
You know, I’ve noticed that although a big chunk of Beaufortonians jump into the Water Festival with both feet and a beer in each hand, another segment of the local population can’t wait till what they term the “Water Pest” is over.
Out at the sandbar — while bikini-clad SandBarbies and their sunburnt, six-packin’ Kens are groovin’ from boat to boat at one of South Carolina’s funnest floating parties — back on shore, many locals’ houses are already closed up tight and their disgruntled owners far away from the crowds, the traffic and the tourists that make this, in their minds, the once-a-year water torture they dread.
Who’s right? As a professional Happy Wino, I decided to weigh each side. I’m certainly not against folks havin’ fun and getting silly, but I also see how a pontoon boat full of uninsured out-of-town drunks headed full speed toward your expensive vintage Chris Craft can be cause for concern.
Still, with all the great dances, street food, crafts, contests and shows, I think each year the festival keeps getting better. More of the local folks I talked to are proudly showing up and seem more willing than ever to be part of this Lowcountry tradition that has stood the test of time. (OK, maybe it wasn’t always standing for the test. Maybe it passed out and fell over a few times, but more importantly it got back up and is once again going strong.)
But still, I don’t want to ignore the legitimate squawks that are water- festering among a small curmudgeony minority of my fellow citizens. So to them, I say, hey … it could be worse.
Check out these five real festivals I discovered online at John Birdsall’s clever SFoodie blog. You might just find our Water Festival ain’t so bad after all.
1. West Virginia Roadkill Cook-Off
In decades past (hell, centuries past) dishes like squirrel gravy over biscuits, stewed bear, and fried possum were Appalachian staples — on the days you were lucky. Now they’re stars of a kind of annual Pocahontas County crafts fair-slash-hootenanny, celebrating what organizers call Country Road Vittles. Take me home.
2. Turkey Testicle Festival
Believe it or not, this isn’t the only fest devoted to the man (well, foul) parts of the iconic American bird, but the one here claims to be the oldest. You can nibble on the delicacies dipped in beer batter and fried — indeed, beer is a big part of the TT Festival, if only so attendees can work up the (forgive us) balls to dig in. Maybe the most disturbing part of the whole fest? Turkey nuggets are said to be roughly human-sized. Major eww.
3. Waurika Rattlesnake Hunt
Start making plans for next spring’s 49th annual fangfest, which, like past hunts, should include karaoke, a longest-snake competition (last year’s winner was a shudder-inducing 68 inches), and — oh, yeah — snake snacks: hunks of deep-fried rattler on a stick. You can score raw snake meat from the festival butcher shop, so be sure and bring a cooler. And, who knows, you just might be crowned Rattlesnake Hunt King or Queen.
4. Waikiki Spam Jam
Kalakaua Avenue, Honolulu, Hi.
Sorry, canned-meat lovers, you missed this year’s fest: a kind of sprawling block party devoted to everybody’s favorite processed protein. There’s Spam-themed swag, performances, even dishes from restaurants adapting the stuff to dishes way beyond Spam musubi. Spamakopita anyone?
North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, Raleigh, N.C.
It’s not every museum that can bring you into such intimate contact with its exhibits — like, as intimate as your esophagus. One of many national entophile celebrations of the six- (and other) legged critters, this one features Café Insecta, a smorgasbord of bug treats cooked up by local restaurants (see picture): grasshopper and collard fritters, cicadas alla romana (bug-studded pizzas), and cream of asparagus and katydid soup. Katy so did not.
Cheers! See ya’ at the sandbar!
By Terry Sweeney