These 10 budget-friendly summer sporting events ruled by oddity
The Miss Buffalo Wing Pageant attracts beauties and eaters
Pig wrestling a featured event at the Choteau (Mont.) County Fair
The Tour De Fat in Fort Collins, Colo., is pedaling pandemonium
10. National Buffalo Wing Festival (Labor Day weekend, Buffalo, N.Y.)
The contest kicks off at Dunn Tire Park, home of the Triple-A Bisons, with the ceremonial "Running of The Chickens." A half-kilometer running race (0.31 miles), this feat of endurance can be tackled by the obese, the elderly, and those with pre-existing coronary disease. The day continues with live music, sauce-offs, the Miss Buffalo Wing Pageant and you guessed it -- massive wing consumption. Beers are plentiful and the atmosphere is jovial leading up to the famed Wing Eating Championship.
As an event sanctioned by the International Federation of Competitive Eating, this wing-eating challenge pulls high-caliber talent -- the types of competitors who laugh in the face of inflammatory bowel disease. Sonya Thomas of Virginia won in 2007 and '08, averaging 170 wings in 12 minutes. (And Terrell Owens actually thinks that he's the biggest star in town!) After the festivities, head to Chippewa Street, Buffalo's nightlife strip, where Pepto-Bismol daiquiris are the drink of choice.
Admission: $5 per day, children 8 and under are free
9. RAGBRAI (July 19 to 25, Iowa)
The route, which changes yearly, runs through countless one-stoplight towns, sticking to the cornfield-lined back roads. The townsfolk are grateful for the business the event brings to their small communities; they line the streets, holding banners and American flags, cheering, and offering food and water. Home-baked pies are sold in roadside church parking lots. It almost feels like you're Michael J. Fox, getting into the DeLorean, and going back to 1955.
Each night, after the riding is over, you'll be able to nurse your saddle sores in the overnight town. Each RAGBRAI evening becomes the town's biggest bash of the year, as non-bike riding, good-time seeking Iowans pour in to hang out with the riders and take over the small-town watering holes. The event is open to anyone.
Admission: $140 for a week-long rider, $35 for non-riders, $25 for daily passes
8. Flip Cup Championship (July 11, New York City)
The first 64 teams of six to register make up "the field" at M1-5 Bar and Lounge in Manhattan. Most teams consist of twentysomething former frat brothers, trying to relive past college glories. Thirtysomethings who enter the competition should avoid discussing how difficult college was without the Internet.
Spectators surround the playing tables. The game is essentially a relay race -- the beer is chugged and the cup is flipped. After the cup lands upright, then next person goes. With more than 65 matches scheduled for the day, only those athletes with incredible endurance will be left standing.
Admission: $25 for spectators, $30 per player
7. Chouteau County Fair (Aug. 14-16, Fort Benton, Mont.)
Chouteau County houses a population of 6,000 and anyone who's anyone heads to the county fairgrounds come mid-August. The first leg of the local Olympics is pig wrestling, where four-person teams face the daunting task of manhandling an adult pig to the ground and stuffing it into a barrel -- rear-end first. Technique is required; teams vie for members of the high-school wrestling team. The team that accomplishes the sloppy task in the shortest amount of time is crowned victors. A chili cook-off follows (pork chili?) before the second leg: an old-fashioned rodeo. Traditional events such as bareback bronc riding, bull riding and barrel racing are held while the crowd hits the beer garden and seeks autographs from local rodeo clowns.
These events are a warm-up to Sunday's headlining act. At 3:15 p.m., the demolition derby cars begin their parade through town. Drivers wave to throngs of onlookers who've lined the streets to catch a glimpse of the cars before they are incapacitated. At 6:00 p.m. the derby commences, with cars plowing into one another until just one cracked-up hunk of metal remains. The winner gets $3,500. Other awards include best paint job (judged before the event) and a $50 for the car with the hardest single hit. Anyone with a valid driver's license (and a car they hate) is allowed to participate, although drivers cannot consume alcohol before the event.
Admission: Varies by event, but entrance to most is no more than $12
6. Kennewick Hydroplane Races (July 24-26, Kennewick, Wa.)
The Kennewick Hydroplane races are the aquatic equivalent of a NASCAR event, or more appropriate, the Indianapolis 500. It's a great excuse to drink cheap brew, soak in some rays, catch a few mullets and talk hydroplanes. In fact, hydroplane fandom can be summed up pretty easily: The rabid, full-fledged addicts know the racers, the engines and can tell you the difference between horizontal stabilizers and single vertical propulsion. The majority of onlookers, however, come to party and watch "really fast boats."
The Kennewick tradition is to spend Saturday on one side of the river and Sunday on the other. You can avoid showing up on a Worst Accidents Caught on Video cable special by keeping your eye on the action at all times -- occasionally a speedboat will be swept out of the water and into the crowd.
Admission: From $5 (bleacher seats) to $45 (three-day pit pass)
5. Chinook Winds World Rib Eating Championship (July 11, Lincoln City, Ore.)
The top three finishers in the professional bracket get to face hot-dog eating champion Joey Chestnut, who has won the event three-years running. Amateurs looking to try their hand at downing barbecue sauce fork over $20 and the first 10 entrants receive a free T-shirt.
Admission: Free for spectators, $20 to enter amateur contest
4. World Yo-Yo Contest (Aug. 13-15, Orlando)
The host Rosen Plaza boasts 22-foot ceilings, 10,000 feet of yo-yoing space and welcomes the sport's brightest stars from 19 different countries. After winning regional and national competitions in their home countries, competitors have their choice of seven different styles of yo-yo. They include string-manipulated tricks, looping maneuvers, two yo-yos simultaneously, freestyle and artistic performance.
With almost 1,000 people in attendance, the post-party in the hotel bar is not to be missed. Competitors of drinking age congratulate one another, fend off yo-yo groupies and reflect on a job well-spun.
Admission: Contest participation starts at $5, spectator passes begin at $9
3. Over The Line Tournament (July 11-12 and 18-19, San Diego, Calif.)
Held over two weekends in July, the game is similar to baseball -- more than 1,200 three-person teams engage each other on 50 courts at Fiesta Island. The object is to hit a foamy orange ball "over the line" which sits 55 feet away in the sand, toward a small area of fair territory. There's no running, every third hit counts as a run, and adult-beverage consumption during play is widely encouraged. The pitcher is on the hitters' team and home runs are a rarity. Bat control and speed in the field are the skills that will take you far.
Anyone can sign up to play, and half of San Diego gathers, scantily clad, to enjoy this massive beach party. OTL team names are historically X-rated, and tournament announcers do an excellent job of enunciating them for all to hear.
2. Oakie Noodling Tournament (July 11, Pauls Valley, Okla.)
The competition calls for 24 straight hours of hand-fishing with all live catches to be delivered to Bob's Pig Shop by 7:30 p.m. Saturday. The audience cheers as the catches are tossed onto the scales, with the crowd eventually spilling out onto Main Street for the ensuing house parties and barbeque-joint hoedowns. Be sure to head to Shotgun Dave's or Punkin's, two of the late night hot spots. And bring Febreze for your photo op with the winning catch.
Admission: $25 to enter
New Belgium Brewery is responsible for the Tour De Fat, an event that makes you feel as though you've just stepped into Alice's Wonderland. The event starts at 9:00 a.m., as thousands of people wearing combinations of their past five Halloween costumes congregate at the brewery's starting line with bicycles in tow. These decked-out cyclists have spent weeks outfitting their bikes, so don't be surprised to see couches pedaled down the street or an electronic piano (with someone playing it) pulled behind a BMX.
When the gun sounds, it's a quick two or three mile jaunt around town, as onlookers line the streets to pick out this year's craziest contraption. The route circles back to the brewery for seven hours of Tour De Fat madness -- including fire breathers on stilts, unicycle jousters punishing each other, pancake juggling and live music. The Tour is spreading its wings to various U.S. cities -- check the Web site to find out of there's one in your area.
Admission: $5 suggested donation for bike ride