Weird, Wacky, and Wicked Fun Contests

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We searched for some of the most obscure contests held throughout North America. Bored at a family reunion? Try one of these out for a fun way to pass the time (except the Bunion Derby—we don’t recommend having a family Bunion Derby for fun).

The Bunion Derby

Wacky endurance tests were all the rage 80 years ago. People walked, talked, ran, danced, drank, ate, and even kissed in marathon competitions. One of the most famous events of the time was the Bunion Derby, the first (and last) transcontinental running race between Los Angeles and New York City, which was so called for obvious reasons. The race was 3,422 miles long, and there were initially 199 runners when the race started on March 4, 1928. By the end of the first day, 77 runners had dropped out. Only 80 departed Oklahoma. By Chicago, only 65 remained. Finally, on May 26, 1928, 55 runners made it into New York City.

Andy Payne

The winner, by over 15 hours, was Andy Payne, a 20-year-old Cherokee farm boy from Oklahoma. His official time was 573 hours, 4 minutes, and 34 seconds over 83 consecutive days. He won $25,000 and paid off the mortgage on the family farm! 

International Rotten Sneaker Contest

Sneakers’ soles, tongues, heels, toes, laces or Velcro, eyelets/grommets, and—most importantly—odors are evaluated for overall condition. The contest is open to kids ages 5 to 15. Winners of regional contests compete for the national title in Vermont. Judge George Aldrich, a odor sniffer from NASA who smells everything that goes into space, has judged the contest for years. Winning entries make his eyes water, his nose burn and his head “kind of kick back.” The winner receives a $2,500 U.S. Savings Bond, $100 towards a new pair of shoes, and, last but not least, a year’s supply of Odor-Eaters. 

International World Rock Paper Scissors (RPS) Championships

Yep. This exists. Think of the childhood pastime “one, two, three, shoot!” Rock beats scissors, scissors beats paper, and paper beats rock. The World RPS Society has taken the game to a new height, one that involves skill, some thought, and a Australian RPS Championwhole lot of luck. The world championships also involve personas and costumes. Bob “The Rock” Cooper, the 2006 world champion, claims that “it’s not about predicting what your opponent will throw; it’s about predicting what your opponent predicts you will throw.” A total of $10,000 is awarded to the first-, second-, and third-prize winners. 

Chicken Clucking and Rooster Calling Contest

Basically, anyone who is brave enough gets on stage at the Duchess County Fair in Rhinebeck, New York, and clucks like chicken and crows like a rooster. Brian Connell, the 2005 chicken clucking winner, says he spent a lot of time in the barn studying and trying to imitate his chickens. The winner is chosen by the audience, so scratching like a chicken and waving your arms go a long way. The first place winner receives $25.

World Championship Rotary Tiller Race

In Emerson, Arkansas, contestants run behind their tiller (they don’t ride it) to see who can till 200 feet of plowed ground the fastest. The tiller must have tines or blades, and an engine no bigger than 100 hp. Contestants must wear shoes (yes, that really is a rule) and there are men’s, women’s, and kids’ divisions. According to Bill Davey, one of the organizers, the fastest tillers are made from scratch, using a Rotor Tiller Racemotorcycle engine and special tines for dry ground or mud (depending on the weather). He also cautions against going up the Waller family, who “are like the Andretti family of tiller racing.” The first-prize winner in the men’s division receives $500, and monetary prizes are awarded in other divisions as well.  

Any of these sound like your cup of tea? Want to try it out? Just Google any of the competitions and go to their Web page to find more details!

Credit to WorldRPS.com and the Encyclopedia of Arkansas for photo usage!

About The Author

Judson D. Hale Sr.

Jud Hale is the Editor Emeritus of The Old Farmer’s Almanac; Jud was the 12th editor of The Old Farmer’s Almanac (since 1792!) and joined the parent company Yankee Publishing in 1958 as an Assistant Editor. Read More from Judson D. Hale Sr.

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