Photo  © Laura Martone.

Photo © Laura Martone.

On Thursday, my husband, Dan, and I attended the National Cherry Festival in Traverse City, Michigan. For several fun-filled hours, we wandered around the fairgrounds, watching leaping-dog competitions, sampling regional wines, and stuffing ourselves with all manner of cherry-related treats – from cherry pie to cherry ginger ale to turkey legs with cherry BBQ sauce.

The highlight of our experience, though, was the Planters Go Nuts! Bed Race, during which several energetic teams frantically wheeled their decorated beds along Front Street. Hundreds of onlookers cheered on the winners of each pairing – and commiserated with those who lost due to unfortunate bed malfunctions. Though our favorite team (“Economic Stimulus Package,” whose requisite rider sat in a makeshift pork barrel) didn’t win the race, the “Big Bed Wolves” (sponsored by the Great Wolf Lodge) definitely deserved their award for best design.

As the last two beds rolled toward the finish line, I thought about all the other hilarious pursuits I’ve encountered across America. Besides the bed races at Colorado’s Snowdown and Michigan’s National Baby Food Festival, you can witness an assortment of quirky events in U.S. towns and cities throughout the year. Here’s a small selection of the most entertaining:

Animal Races

There’s no shortage of ridiculous animal competitions in America. Some of the funniest spectacles include the ostrich races at the mid-March Ostrich Festival in Chandler, Arizona; the toad races at Toad Suck Daze in Conway, Arkansas, in early May; the Mid-Atlantic Hermit Crab Challenge at Virginia Beach in mid-July; and, my personal favorite, the Barnyard Racers Pig Races at the L.A. County Fair in September. While some animal activists scorn such contests, I adore watching the little pigs in action, especially when the winner gobbles up his or her prize – a delicious Oreo cookie.

Boat Races

If you prefer rooting for people instead of pigs, then perhaps you should attend one of the country’s many madcap boat races. Some of the more inspired ones include the Baltimore Kinetic Sculpture Race in early May, which highlights amphibious artwork in Chesapeake Bay and along the shore, and the Battle in the Bay Dragon Boat Festival in the Florida Keys, an early May challenge that features several 20-person paddling teams in elaborately designed creations. If you’d rather watch boats sink before the finish line, consider the mid-July Allstate Milk Carton Derby at Seattle’s Seafair, which presents off-the-wall watercraft fashioned from milk cartons, or The Great Cardboard Boat Regatta, which offers several chances to watch cardboard vessels throughout the year.

Wheel Races

For the landlubbers among us, oodles of wheeled races abound. One of the most sidesplitting is the Outhouse 500 in downtown Coopersville, Michigan – a showcase of ingeniously festooned toilets that’s sure to chase away the February chill. Two amusing August events include the lawnmower races at the Loggers’ Jubilee in Morton, Washington, and the potato car races, which feature actual spuds-on-wheels, during Potato Days in Barnesville, Minnesota.

Perhaps the craziest (and most dangerous) contest in America is the mid-October Norcal Boat Race Nationals at the Lakeport Speedway in Lakeport, California, where boat-dragging cars thrash into one another while attempting to preserve themselves. Earlier in the summer, you can even witness this “maritime mayhem on the high asphalt” in one of several qualifying rounds known as the “Fiberglass 500.”

For more information about America’s wackiest annual happenings, consult Eccentric America. Just remember to contact each specific event for the most up-to-date details.