Sunday, June 12, 2011

Pirate Festival - Kingdom City, MO - June 10, 2011

#41 Pirate Festival - Kingdom City, MO - June 11, 2011

Avast Ye Matey!

Just when I thought I was on the verge of running out of strange and weird new places, Kingdom City's Pirate Festival delivered. Meet the Wiccan Wanderer and his crow (oddly not a parrot) puppet friend. I could have taken a photo with plenty of people at this festival, but my friend here really summed it up. An open mind and a sense of humor were required.

I'm still stumped by this. For the life of me I can't figure out why the Pirates had a castle. For the record, I think it is a left over prop from the renaissance festival and just looks really cool at the entrance. Either way, it was easy to see that strangeness lurked just beyond the gates.

Welcome to "Shoot the Pirate". Yes, there is a pirate skeleton back there. Yes, there are random pots and pans hanging in obstruction of said pirate. And yes, I shot a paintball gun at said pots, pans and bony skeleton pirate. Why? Who knows, but it is better to stop asking that question in these parts.

Food offerings were slim at this festival. Apparently pirates really did sustain themselves on rum. In fact, the only things available were hamburgers and turkey legs. It really was a no-brainer to go for the turkey leg. Pre-made and held in foil on the grill (A festive fest no-no), but still tasted great. For my food purist loyal reader, the food has been light as of late but will be remedied.

With a full stomach, I ventured out to find larpers. Why larpers at a pirate festival? Again, it is better not to ask why, but instead to let it go. Here I am being trained by the best "stick jockey" this side of the kingdom. The larpers were very open to explaining things and were having a great time. To each their own, and maybe I'll meet him again down the road with some new moves. For more information on LARPing, see below.

Festive Trinket of the Week: I did purchase my own larping sword. Behold my very own Excalibur, or at least that's the name until a new one is earned in battle. Now you may ask, what magical materials were used to construct my new lance of justice? (That wasn't your first question?) Well its the perfect meeting of pvc pipe and swim noodle. You can even get your own weapon of vengeance here.

Videos of the Week: This festival could not be contained by one video. On the left, behold the speed, skill and power of LARPing in its glory. These guys are good, but I'm confident with a little practice I can give them a run for the money. On the Right: Meet Molotov the Gypsy. The man puts on a good show and something you don't see everyday.

Where to start with LARPing? First, it stands for Live Action Role Play. Here is a brief overview of the subject. It seems to me that the larpers I met knew of the preconceptions some people have about them and either don't care or revel in it. There is a freedom in doing what you enjoy without giving a concern about what others think. Unfortunately, there isn't a whole lot out there for more information on the topic and maybe it just needs to be seen live to be understood. If you are ready to get into larping in the St. Louis area, check out Amtgard Order of the Black Flame. If you still want to kick some virtual arse, then get some weapons here. Sadly, even fantasy worlds have rules to follow but there is also a guide for newbies. There are a couple movies on the subject I have enjoyed, Role Models for a comedy and Darkon for an in-depth look into the topic.

Yet, this was a Pirate Festival. I have by and large resisted the temptation to yo ho, avast or use any Arrr jokes. If that is what you were hoping for then you can start with this Pirate term dictionary (apparently it should be spelled pyrate). Once you have learned some new pirate terms, then you can use them on September 19th for International Talk Like a Pirate Day. Or, maybe you were expecting pirate jokes. Then this is the site for you. If you have children, or are a kid at heart, then here is a fun little pirate chantey (We here at FFF likes anything with puppets). Yet for some reason animatronics are kind of creepy, especially the old Disney ones. Here is a very confusing version of an ol' song that I couldn't stop watching. I could go on for hours, but Rob Ossian has already done it in a much better manner than I could. Do yourself a favor and check out his compilation of all things pirate. Maybe your inner nerd just wants the pirate facts. Maybe you want to actually be a pirate now, then get your gear here.

When I woke up in the morning, I expected some fake eye patches and some unnecessary words featuring the letter "R". I got so much more. My apologies to my loyal reader as this festival was not a true food festival. Yet this site is dedicated to finding the strange and the different as well, and we succeeded to that point. I've heard the same reactions repeatedly when discussing my day, and I still don't understand why people look down on people having fun and not harming anyone. It was a fun day, letting go of all inhibitions and sharing laughs in the middle of nowhere.
Just goes to show you, an open mind is a terrible thing to waste. Why? Because it's fun, nothing more nothing less.

Monday, June 6, 2011

#40 Horseradish Festival - Collinsville, IL - June 3, 2011

#40 Horseradish Festival - Collinsville, IL - June 3, 2011

It's Horseradish Festival time once again, and I put together another recipe this year. I was the back-to-back champion and the stage was set to re-write the annals of horseradish recipe contest history. I took a big risk and went for all the money with a horseradish dessert. Welcome the Pineapple Horseradish Tiramisu with candied horseradish topping (which actually tasted better than it sounds). Please see the left column on this page for this recipe and other festive original recipes.

It was as if there was a bounty on my head, and the competitors kept filing in. There were ten contestants this year, doubling last year's effort. Pictured here are a horseradish pizza (corned beef, swiss, horseradish cream and grilled) and a horseradish cheesecake (graham cracker crust, jell-o cheesecake mix and horseradish). I'll admit I was worried seeing another dessert and the pizza looked really good.

Three more entries. From the rear, two types of chip dip, a corn chowder with steak and a steak sandwich with horseradish cream (the eventual winner). Personally I think the soup was robbed, as it was delicious although the steak was a little tough. Plating is always important in recipe contests, and the winner came through with a bell pepper sauce bowl and carrot peeled spoon.

The decision came out, and I won second. The dreams of a 3peat dead, I tried my best to look happy. In the words of Ricky Bobby, "If you're not first, you're last". In all seriousness, the competitors were very good this year, and I was lucky to have gotten second place to the person who won second last year. Notice the shockingly red ribbon in contrast to the royal blue from past years. If you can't tell, I hate losing.

Of course there was a whole festival going on this whole time, and what would this site be if it did not include the mandatory shot of the official 2 story tall horseradish bottle. This is my third time at this festival, so I will spare you the horseradish root toss, or the horseradish golf, or root sacking or even the root derby. If you would like to relive the past, feel free to visit last year's event and here for 2009.

This was my first festival back since last fall, and there is no better way to kick off festival season than a funnel cake. The staple that started all of this. It was just as remembered, and always takes you back to your childhood and puts a smile on your face. Not bad for a few bucks.

I ventured out looking for horseradish themed foods. This festival tries to include its theme ingredient by requiring every stand to offer some type of horseradish variant. The plus side is that every booth had something horseradish, the bad side though is they pass off things like this fried "horseradish taco". I'm not sure where the horseradish was, if it existed, but I would assume they put some horseradish on a taco. With that said, we here at Festive Festival Festivities stand by anything fried.

Festive Trinket of the Week: I had heard that the festival sells a cookbook containing recipes from past recipe contest winners, but they were sold out. I like to think that somewhere someone is wondering how the heck I scaled some of my recipes the last 2 years (For the record I measure nothing). With that said, a hat is always in order for a progressively balding man, and I was happy with this purchase.

Video of the Week: FFF has always been about bringing you the loyal reader a click closer to all of the great bands that play on the festival circuit. This is Exit 12, and they are a group of kids all under the age of 17. They sounded great, and I always like an opportunity to "OY" along with the music.

Although this was my third time at the Horseradish Festival, I'm still not sure what makes it "International". I assume it has something to do with Canada. Either way, it remains an inspiration to this site, and continues to inspire me to get back in the kitchen. 1 out of 2 ain't bad.

The pineapple horseradish tiramisu was actually a morphed recipe of something I had begun to work on last year. I wasn't sure about a horseradish dessert, and if the idea is still turning you off, then look away from this gefilte fish cupcake with horseradish icing. Wow. This was actually my most involved recipe thus far, and I've come a long way from broiling some shrimp and mixing some horseradish with honey. It's not a bad recipe, and may actually be better with less if no horseradish. The recipe is on the left column if you would like it.

Yet, Festive Festival Festivities is an educational site as well. For example, did you know that horseradish was selected as the herb of the year for 2011? It is in fact, and here is much more horseradish information than you ever needed to know. Or, maybe you came here looking for some medical advice. Then here are the medicinal uses for horseradish just for you. A fair warning though, if the previous articles have inspired you to grow your own horseradish then your garden may be overrun with it like this poor lady. I know that not everyone came to this site looking for actual information,some of you want the silly. Here's a horrible pun t-shirt that could be yours for $19.95, or maybe this short and to the point cartoon will be silly enough for you. Or, if you have 25 minutes to waste, here is a horrible episode of "Weird Science" the TV show (yes for some reason they mad a show out of the movie). Actually I'll just save you the time, the password is horseradish.

This was the first festival of the year, and the first post of the year is normally an exercise in knocking the rust off. There will be better to come (hopefully). After two years of running to every festival around the St. Louis metro area, I feel I have been to a majority of them. I will continue to search for even sillier ones this year, and I will need my loyal reader's help. Please send me an email if you hear of a festival you feel needs discovery. Thus begins year 3 of FFF, and I hope the road ahead is as fun as the road behind.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

#39 Goose Festival - Sumner, MO - October 23, 2010

#39 Goose Festival - Sumner, MO - October 23, 2010

Welcome to Sumner, MO the Wild Goose Capital of the world. Don't believe me? It's written right on their local saloon. I'm not sure what the process is to be dubbed the Goose Capital, but I'm sure Sumner has all of their paperwork in order. Just seems messier than cleaning up after a parade of Clydesdales to me.

It had been a while since I have been to a festival, and my heart may have been getting over-confident of late. Alas, it was short lived as I ate this oily mess of fried pickles. Normally, fried pickles are served in chip form which balances the tart pickle with enough batter. Yet these little diddies were spears, and these spears were ready to fully unleash their sour powers. It basically tasted like a warm pickle and the mug o' ranch did nothing beneficial. I can't stand ranch dressing.

These were sold as, "Poor Man's Mushrooms". I wasn't aware that mushrooms were very expensive, in fact I'm pretty sure they grow in the wild. (At least he button variety you would fry). Yet this vendor decided to make the process more difficult. These beauties consisted of Cream of Mushroom Soup balls with cornmeal, and then breaded and fried. Interesting concept, but breaded mushrooms are better. Maybe some goose would have been a nice addition to the batter.

The pioneer kitchen was open, and I was excited. I was salivating thinking about blue plate specials, goose concoctions or meat and bread sandwiches. Alas, they were out of everything except soup and pie. I settled for the pie. A nice piece of homemade pumpkin pie with Cool-Whip topping. You just can't go wrong with a slice of pie. My disappointment with the lack of pioneer food at the pioneer kitchen faded with every bite. (Side note: This is a good example as to why you should cover the exposed crust with a ring of aluminum foil when baking the pie).

I noticed there was something missing in my afternoon at the Goose Festival...a flippin' goose. There weren't any flying around, attacking little children or crapping all over the sidewalks. I think the reason was this 3-story goose was scaring them all away. A local cowboy informed me of this strange commemoration and I had to go see it for myself. I'm not sure I have to say much more about "Maxie" the World's Largest Goose. This guy has more info on Maxie, and points out that I somehow missed the world's largest pecan around here.

Not much is known about this mysterious object that fell from the sky some 200 years ago. I say "some", because the time frame offered spans 100 years. I'm not sure how rare meteorites are, but I had never seen a meteoric monument before. Two monuments in a town of 150 is not a bad ratio.

Trinket of the Week: A Duck Commander brand duck call. I'll be honest with you, a real duck call will put you back anywhere from $50 on up. You can probably get a good one for about $150. Now I have no idea what makes one duck caller better than another, but I now know that for $5 all get is made a sucker. This thing is a kid's whistle in a duck calling package. Maybe I'm not doing it right, but I'm pretty sure the vendor didn't laugh at me just because I didn't look like a hunter.

Videos of the Week: Now this is what a duck call is supposed to sound like. Notice the passion and heart that a true caller needs, regardless of their age. Note the youthful exuberance in contrast to the mature calm exuded by an old pro. This my friends is true callin'. I had no idea what I was looking at, and had to ramble on over to a cowboy in a yellow Wrangler shirt in order to find out. It's actually a lot like a harmonica where breath control is vital and each call is tailored for a specific behavior (ie. warning, mating, feeding, etc.).

It's been a while since my last update, and to my loyal reader, I apologize. I needed to take a self-imposed hiatus to take care of some things. This goose festival was a great welcome back. Although I didn't see a single live goose or eat any goose related goodies, it was still a pretty silly event. There are always smiling people just waiting to share their pride in their hometown with you at every festival in America. This time I met a beady-eyed cowboy wearing a canary yellow shirt and a cowboy hat who was quite open to discussing the festival. Apparently some years ago Sumner, MO was in the middle of the central migratory pattern of the Canadian Goose. Geese were so rampant that the yearly kill limit was 250,000 for hunters. But, as time, development, regulations and waterways changed, the kill limits dwindled to 100,000 and down to the tens of thousands today. Hunters are still at the ready here, but these days each person is limited to one bird per day. Hardly makes the effort worthwhile. Goose isn't that good.

Back to the lecture at hand, as always here is much more information about Canadian Geese than you probably had even been curious about. Heck they even have sound effects if you need the siren song of the Canadian Goose. Or if you are a little ADD prone, here are some quick hits of Canadian Goose facts. Here is some interesting information on their migration patterns and behaviors. Now, after getting to know the goose and hearing the term "kill limit" earlier, maybe you would like to stand up in defense of the goose. Then here is all the info you need. Or, maybe like me, you have been attacked by a wild-eyed goose and would prefer to prepare one in a delicious way.

As I mentioned, there was no goose to be found at the festival. Although my appetite was not satiated by the fowl, my mind kept asking questions about our lexicon concerning the goose. There are a lot of goose related terms out there, so I figured I'd explore a few. The term "goosebumps" has a surprisingly simple origin answer. It gets much more complicated when you bring up geese, gaggle and gander. Apparently a group of geese (in the air) is a gaggle, a male goose is a gander, a baby goose is a gosling and a female goose is a...well a goose. This is all explained well here along with the term, "Take a gander at...". It also explains the term, "What's good for the goose is good for the gander" (which I mistakenly thought was about what's good for an individual is good for a group).

Ok enough learning, because I know you came here to find a hand blown funny goose from Russia. Or maybe your warped mind has wondered if a duck and a goose are able to mate. The answer, well here is an entry named, "What the Guck". Well now you're ready to handle a gaggle of geese yourself. Maybe you'll find yourself in Sumner and not actually see any geese, well then here is an instructional video on how to call geese to you. Or, here is a funny documentary of the dangers of the goose. Thanks for taking a gander.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

#38 Shrimp Festival - Golconda, IL - September 18, 2010

#38 Shrimp Festival - Golconda, IL - September 18, 2010

You might be wondering if that is shrimp on a perfectly good nacho, and the answer would be yes. I'm not sure who or why someone thought this was a good idea, but there is a reason this is the first time I've seen this combination. It's not that it was bad, but it just didn't make any sense either. I ended up eating the nachos first and then eating the then cheesy shrimp. The creativity though was duly noted.

The classic fried shrimp. There really isn't a way to mess up this dish, and I was certainly happy with this. Along with the perfectly GBD shrimp was something called a sweet tomato. It was crinkle cut and looked like s half tomato half pickle frankenfruit. It tasted like a very mild pickle with a crisp texture which ended up being a good contrast to the sweet thimble o' cocktail sauce.

There wasn't really any other strange concoctions, so I went ahead and got the shrimp on a stick. I have previously bemoaned terribly cooked and handled seafood in the past, but this was excellent. They understood that people are willing to wait the 2 minutes to cook shrimp, and perfectly grilled this skewer. I will happily attest that these shrimp were cooked perfectly, and the scampi style was pretty decent too.

Now when I first came to this festival, I was greeted by a line of motorcycles. My mind immediately raced back to my previous misadventures with motorcycle rallies. Don't get me wrong, bikers are by and far great people, but it's kinda like looking into a cow's eye. They look nice and calm, but you can tell their animal instinct could kick in at anytime.

Golconda, Illinois is set atop the Ohio River along the Kentucky border. This festival was fairly tame when it came to the strange, but it did offer helicopter rides. Now I have done a tethered hot air balloon ride, but I just couldn't trust a helicopter pilot that needed the money from a Shrimp festival to fly me around.

Festive Trinket of the Week: Maybe not one of my strangest buys, but I've always enjoyed mancala and don't have a set. That, and the price was right at $2. Heck, you don't even need the board to play; in ancient times people simply dug the holes into the ground and played with stones.

Video of the Week: The video I had didn't reflect the humor I had intended. Thus, here is a shrimp on a treadmill set to the music of the Benny Hill Show. Solid. If you watch the whole thing I might be worried about you.

Now you may be wondering why the heck is there a shrimp festival in the middle of the country? Well, turns out that Golconda is a burgeoning freshwater shrimp farming hub. Apparently the shrimp at this festival was raised right here in Golconda, which made me feel better about eating shrimp in Southern Illinois (Kind of). Golconda was a nice host, but my favorite Golconda fun fact may be that it has no signal lights and only one four-way stop (almost impossibly true).

Now loyal readers know this is an educational blog at its roots, so here is all the information you may ever want to know about shrimp (even told through the oral tradition). Or maybe you would like to go shrimping on your own and catch a fresh batch, well Jethro is way ahead of you. Now I know that some people may no longer be able to say the word "shrimp" without thinking of Bubba Gump. Can you name all the ways Bubba can cook shrimp? The first thing that actually came to my mind was actually a prawn. Here is my boy, Pepe the Prawn, telling a fairly solid joke with an elephant buddy. As we have seen shrimp can be funny, but did you know they can also be deadly? This pistol shrimp kind of creeps me out. Make sure you watch the first video as well, I'm not sure how much sound is added and how much is real. Heck, you don't even have to be around the water to be in shrimp danger, just ask this lady what flying shrimp at the local Benihana can do.

Shrimp are an extremely versatile food, and one that almost everyone enjoys (except for those that are shellfish intolerant). If you ever find yourself with a bunch of shrimp and no ideas, make sure you try the horseradish shrimp recipe on the left side of the page (my first award winner). The Golconda Shrimp festival is pretty fun, if a little on the normal side (if that's a bad thing). Maybe it needed a mascot or a someone in a silly shrimp costume. Either way the food was good, the sky was blue and the travel smooth. Another success on the festival circuit.

EDIT: Festive Friend Imron added some great information regarding Golconda in the comment section that I felt should be included in the post:
"Also, did you investigate the claim that the name Golconda (which is pretty unique) actually comes from India? Golconda, India (right by Hyderabad and the Fort is still there), was apparently one of the regional capitals from 1512 to 1687. It is likely the Illinois town was a throwback to the earlier Indian era, since it was named as a regional capital within Illinois in 1817, at a time when interest in India was the vogue because of expanding English rule there."

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

#37 Popcorn Festival - Casey, IL - September 5, 2010

Popcorn Festival - Casey, IL - September 5, 2010

Welcome to the Popcorn Festival in Casey, and yes, the first thing you get is a free bag of popcorn. Getting the theme ingredient for free at a festival is always a great beginning. I think popcorn is one of those foods I could keep eating until either there was no more left or my stomach hurt. (Also included in that category: Chicken Wings, Candy Corn, Milk Chocolate, Peanut M&M's, most edible items, etc.)

Meet the fried pretzel. Deep fried foods are a staple at these festivals, and I can't believe it took me this long to find a fried pretzel. The concept is so simple and obvious it almost puts the pet rock to shame. Don't let the strange color and scary bubbles scar you, this pretzel was crispy and soft on the inside. A great compliment to the cheese. I'll just have to say that it tasted better than it photographed.

Next up was this belly bomber known as either a Frito-Pie or a Taco-in-a-Bag. Either way it is pretty tasty. These are prevalent at festivals, but I hadn't gotten one before. It is a regular bag of fritos (Slightly crushed) topped with chili, cheese, tomatoes, lettuce and sour cream. Another looks like crap but tastes great option.

After these goodies, it was time for dessert. This is a deep fried snickers bar. This is definitely not my first rodeo when it comes to deep fried desserts, but the snickers had eluded me until now. Maybe I was expecting more, but this was kind of a disappointment. The crust did nothing for the bar, and to make a snickers even more gooey seems counter productive. Don't get me wrong, you can't go wrong with battering and frying a candy bar. But, I would prefer a frozen snickers to a deep fried one.

Strangely, there were three wood carvers putting on demonstrations throughout the day as well. These guys were fairly impressive as their pieces show. I like artwork of animals doing people activities, so the fishing bear definitely caught my eye.

Festive Trinket of the Week: I think this sign speaks for itself. It will make an excellent addition to my home, and I was even able to talk down the price enough to not even have buyers remorse (quite the feat when it comes to these silly trinkets).

Videos of the Week Twofer: I finally found my camera and videos are again plentiful. Of course you didn't expect quality images of quality entertainment did you? On the left is Paul Lee the Magician. He runs through a few staple tricks such as producing a dove and turning it into a rabbit. The man just needs an assistant, and he would be great. He even claims to have appeared on the Bozo the Clown Show (creepy, but reminded me of this Seinfeld skit). On the right is the "Whip Guy" who was actually fairly entertaining. Here he is doing his best Indiana Jones impersonation by whipping the whip around a woman.

This festival was actually larger than I had expected, but oddly enough did not feature much popcorn. Sadly, it had the free popcorn stand and two other kettle corn booths for purchase. I'm not much of a kettle corn guy, there's something plain wrong about sweet popcorn. So why popcorn in Casey, IL? I asked the local information booth, and was told that Casey used to be home to many popcorn factories, was grown in town, and donated to the festival. For some reason the factories closed up years ago and the town continued using a popcorn theme (even though its popcorn is now bought and shipped in).

I know my loyal reader is here to become the next leader in popcorn history so here you go. If that wasn't enough to satiate you, then this site dedicated to popcorn is bursting with info. Some of you may not be into all that learning stuff, so here is a direct link to a corn and kernel popcorn pong game against Poppy and a slow motion video of popcorn kernels popping set to strange music. Maybe that's not silly enough for you. Well then, how about the world's largest popcorn ball and the process to make it? If that still isn't doing it for you, then nothing is sillier than the mark up on movie theater popcorn. After all of that, the first thing that came to my mind when I thought about writing this post was James Brown performing "Mother Popcorn". If you would like to learn how to dance like James Brown learn from the Godfather of Soul himself here (2 Words: Funky Chicken). Or if you ever wondered why he is referred to as the Hardest Working Man in Show Business, then here is a good run down. (Set to a great song).

These days microwaved popcorn has made life pretty easy for most popcorn enthusiasts. Yet modern science always wants to tell us that everything is bad for you. Heck, even if you do make it, many people tend to get distracted and forget it in the microwave too long. A lesson my old friend the Swedish Chef makes here to a very catchy song. If you want to make your own microwave popcorn yourself without the extra fillers and additives, then Alton Brown is here to help with a brown paper bag. Maybe you can even sneak some into your next movie and keep some kernels in your cob.