6 bizarre festivals and races around the world

By Shona Owen

If you didn’t manage to get tickets to Glastonbury this summer, why not try something new and something completely out of your comfort zone? Here are six utterly daft festivals and races where you can either take part or watch from the sidelines.


Photo: Pekka Honkakoski

1. Wife Carrying World Championships, Finland

Employing a piggyback, fireman’s hold or an Estonian-style carry (pictured above), the winner of the Wife Carrying World Championship is the couple that completes the course in the shortest time. However, what lies between you and the finish line is a 253.5m obstacle course including one water obstacle. Originating in the late 19th Century when robbers would steal wives from local villages, the competition is now a recognised sport, carried out light-heartedly, so grab your weight belt, your spouse and your sense of humour and head to Finland, as anyone is welcome to join. Wives must be a minimum of 49kg. And the prize? The wife’s weight in beer.

Next event: 1-2 July 2016


Photo: Andrew Wyatt

2. Frozen Dead Guy Days, Colorado, USA

As outrageous as the costumes and contests, the reason behind the Frozen Dead Guy Days was to celebrate the story of Grandpa Bredo Morstoel, a Norwegian national who has been cryogenically frozen since 1989. Packed in dry ice in Nederland, Colorado, the locals have embraced the frozen corpse by holding a macabre festival, which involves frozen salmon tossing, frozen t-shirt contests, costume polar plunging and coffin racing, where teams of six pallbearers lug a casket with a “corpse” through an icy obstacle course. Taking on a life of its own, this year saw 20,000 vampire, polar bear and Tony the Tiger-dressed enthusiasts attend, all seeking a bit of frosty fun.

Next event: early March, 2017


Photo: Henley on Todd Inc

3. Henley On Todd, Alice Springs, Australia

When Reg Smith, a member of the Rotary Club of Alice Springs, had the idea of holding a regatta based on the famous Henley-on-Thames, he wasn’t deterred by the fact that the town was 1,500km from the nearest large body of water. Inspired by the idea of a waterless regatta, other members asked if the boats would be towed or pushed along the dry riverbed, to which Smith replied, “Neither, we’ll cut the bottoms out and carry them”. A mad dash in every sense of the term, with pirate ships firing flour bombs and bathtubs on legs, the Henley on Todd Regatta has been running annually for 54 years, though was ironically cancelled once in 1993, due to the river flooding.

Next event: 20 August 2016


Photo: 1000 Words / Shutterstock

4. Cooper’s Hill Cheese-Rolling, Gloucestershire

There are two outcomes of participating in the cheese-rolling race: either you hit the pub with a fantastic new story in your repertoire or you end up in the local hospital with a twisted ankle or worse. Letting loose a 9lb round of Double Gloucester cheese, grown men and women chase the dairy wheel down the 295ft hill hoping to be first to reach the bottom or to grab the cheese. For spectators, this festival, which follows a 200-year-old tradition, is a brilliant way to spend the Spring Bank holiday and if you want to join them, the best view is from the bottom, where a squadron of locals and rugby players wait to catch the tumbling participants.


Photo: Kanuma City

5. Konaki Sumo, Japan

It is not the ring of a bell but the first wail of a child that determines the winner of this battle. Held around the country and believed to bring good health to infants, the Japanese festival Konaki Sumo or Nakizumo, involves babies being passed to the hulking, university club sumo wrestlers who pull faces and make noises, hoping to make their charge cry first and therefore become the winner. Said to be cathartic and effective in warding off evil spirits, if both babies cry at the same time, then the one bawling the loudest is declared victor, but if the babies don’t cry at all, the judge is forced to bring out an ogre mask, which usually does the trick.

Next event: September, 2016 at the Ikiko shrine, Kanuma-ski, Tochigi


Photo: Green Events

6. World Bog Snorkelling Championships, Wales

Worm charming, husband dragging, stiletto racing, finger jousting, gravy wrestling, Russian egg roulette: you can find them all in the charming, if peculiar, town of Llanwrtyd Wells. Its alternative games held annually in August attract hundreds of participants from Europe, South Africa, Australia and the USA. The main draw is the World Bog Snorkelling Championships: strap on a mask and snorkel, slippers and outrageous costume (optional) and using only leg power, swim to a wooden post and back (110m). If you manage to do that, while not swallowing any of the trench water, then you’ll be warmly embraced by the crowd.

Next event: 28 August 2016

Exsus Travel can arrange a tailor-made holiday to any of these festivals.

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