1. National Cherry Festival: Traverse City, Mich., July 3–10 What could be more American than a Fourth of July week celebration for a fruit associated with George Washington? There are 150-plus events this year: a Blue Angels air show, a concert by Loverboy, and traditional contests for cherry pie–eating and pit-spitting. “There was a guy in his 70s who spit something like 36 feet,” says longtime volunteer Lee Torrey, who himself won the contest one year, spitting a pit 44 feet. Three quarters of the events are free. 231/947-4230, www.cherryfestival.org.
2. Yarmouth Clam Festival: Yarmouth, Maine, July 16–18 The tiny, 19th-century town of Yarmouth—8,500 residents, on the coast halfway between Portland and Freeport—hosts the state’s clam-shucking contest, the highlight of a four-decades-old festival. “We pull in around 125,000 people that weekend,” says Matt Chin, who plays the tuba in the North Yarmouth Town Band and marches in the Friday-evening parade. “It really transforms a small town.” Along with clams, shrimp, lobster, and corn on the cob, there are fireworks, free concerts, a parade, canoe races, and a “diaper derby”—toddlers compete to be the fastest crawler. 207/846-3984, www.clamfestival.com.
3. Gilroy Garlic Festival: Gilroy, Calif., July 23–25 There are three stages with live music, a Miss Gilroy Garlic Queen pageant, and tons of entertainment for kids, but the highlight is the food. Each year, some 130,000 people come to this town near Monterey Bay to taste pasta, sausage, scampi, stuffed mushrooms, and calamari prepared by cooks who aren’t bashful about heaping on the festival’s namesake herb. “People really get into the garlic cook-off competition,” says Pat DeStasio, who sells fresh garlic products at a booth. “They set up bleachers for people to watch, and everything’s prepared fresh there and then.” Adults $10, 408/842-1625, www.gilroygarlicfestival.com.
4. World’s Longest Yard Sale: Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, and Alabama, August 7–15 The mother of all yard sales takes over a 450-mile stretch of highway from Covington, Ky., to Gadsden, Ala. “There are antiques dealers from as far away as Michigan, as well as your neighbor just trying to get rid of some junk,” says Carolyn Crabtree, of the Danville-Boyle Convention & Visitors Bureau in Kentucky. The yard sale is also known as the 127 Sale, because the majority of it takes place along Highway 127. 800/327-3945, www.127sale.com.
5. Morton Loggers Jubilee: Morton, Wash., August 12–15 “The biggest draw is the lawnmower races on Friday night,” says Mike Fairhart, a festival announcer since 1969. “There’s even a contest for the prettiest lawnmower, and some people go whole hog, painting flames on the front like old race cars.” On Saturday and Sunday, more-traditional logging events such as ax throwing and logrolling take over the Jubilee, a salute to the lumberjack lifestyle that’s been around since the 1930s. Admission charge for some events, 360/496-6086, www.loggersjubilee.com.
6. Little League World Series: Williamsport, Pa., August 20–29 Stop grumbling that ESPN and worldwide media attention have taken the purity out of the Series, played by 11- and 12-year-olds. This is still as uncorrupted as baseball gets. “I attended with the idea that there was too much pressure on the kids,” says Cammy Clark, a Miami Herald reporter who covered the tournament last year. “It was the complete opposite. Kids from different nationalities are running around making friends. Everything’s cheap, too. Parking is free and a hamburger is like $1.50.” It’s too late to get tickets to the championship game; earlier rounds usually aren’t a problem. Free admission, 570/326-1921, www.littleleague.org.
7. North Carolina Apple Festival: Hendersonville, N.C., September 3–6 The Apple Festival is essentially a 10-block street fair with rows of handmade crafts and a local apple grower on every corner. “Anything to do with apples is at this thing,” says Anthony Owens, of Windy Ridge Farms, which sells organic apples. “Vendors go all out: fried apple pies, apple chips, and anything else they can think up.” The festival began in 1938 and now attracts 300,000 annually. 828/697-4557, www.ncapplefestival.org.
Plus two odder fests
While the festivities have also included “shin kicking” and “grinning for cake,” the big event at the Cooper’s Hill Annual Cheese Rolling and Wake has contestants risking life and limb to chase an eight-pound wheel of double Gloucester down a steep hill in the English Cotswolds. The winner gets to take the cheese home (a tradition dating from the 1800s). There’s no entry fee; just show up on May 31. For information, see www.cheese-rolling.co.uk.
When Napoleon first tasted an omelette in the south of France, he insisted that a giant version be cooked to feed his army. To commemorate that event, the Canadian city of Granby—in conjunction with five other French-speaking Quebec cities—will prepare its own omelette-o-saurus on June 24. The annual event requires its own army of chefs, as well as 5,000 eggs, more than 50 pounds of onions, 52 pounds of butter, and—to taste—a few gallons of Tabasco sauce and crawfish tails. Granby-Bromont Tourism, 866/472-6292.
Summer vacation planning resources
- Campground reservations: www.reserveamerica.com, www.reserveusa.com, www.woodalls.com
- Drive-ins: www.driveinmovie.com, www.drive-ins.com
- Ponds, quarries, rivers, and other spots to swim: www.swimmingholes.org, www.running-water.com
- Roadside restaurants: www.roadfood.com
- Amusement parks, zoos, and water parks: www.themeparkinsider.com, www.themeparkcity.com
- Scenic drives: www.byways.org
- Farmers markets: www.ams.usda.gov/farmersmarkets
- State and county fairs: www.breedersworld.com/fairs.html
- Free campgrounds: www.freecampgrounds.com
- Hot springs: www.hotspringsenthusiast.com
- National parks, recreation areas, and monuments: www.nps.gov
- Corn mazes: www.maizemaze.com/maize_mazes01.html
- Ghost towns: www.ghosttowns.com
- Road-trip maps, message boards, and other resources: www.roadtripamerica.com