Sunday, June 27, 2010

#29 New Melle Fest's World Famous Gizzards - June 26, 2010

#29 New Melle Fest's World Famous Gizzards - New Melle, MO - June 26, 2010

Why would you have a burger and fries, when you can have a burger and gizzards. That's right, gizzards. I went to this festival primarily because its website claimed that these gizzards were world famous. They were a little hard to bite through and a little chewy, but they tasted like a dark meat chicken nugget. The breading may have been a little over seasoned, but maybe it needed to be so I wouldn't taste the actual meat. Either way, they were actually tasty. Until I saw this...

I was walking by the kitchen when I saw three guys telling stories and laughing while huddled around a tub. My curiosity won, and I came across these guys as they were cleaning today's supply of gizzards. (To be honest I was shocked the gizzards weren't some frozen pre-made variety) They weren't really sure as to why these gizzards were world famous, but they figured it had to do with the love they put in them. It is a festival law that anything fried is good. Yet, after seeing this, I wasn't so sure I enjoyed my gizzards as much as I had previously thought.

Ahh...The classic that started it all. There is nothing more pure festival than the funnel cake. Some might say the corn dog or caramel apple, and they would be wrong. There really wasn't much more going on at this festival food-wise, so I went for this classic beauty. Come to think of it...there wasn't much going on at all.

Mind you that this picture was taken at 1:00 pm. Normally, 1 PM is the peak time for a festival. There should be silly contests, people, food galore, people, doings a transpiring, and flipping people. But not here. It was kind of eerie, and I hadn't come across this before. I asked around, and apparently it was a late night at this festival the previous night, and people would be back to see that night's band Butchwax and the Hollywoods.

Besides a washer tournament, the Antique Tractor Pull was the big draw. Now I know that some of you may not be familiar with a tractor pull, and neither was I before last year's Salisbury Festival. The concept is simple. You attach a weight to a tractor and see how far you can pull it. There is one catch. The weight is actually on this sled that slides forward as the ride goes on. Eventually the weight creates so much downward force that nearly any tractor would be stuck like a mule in the mud. Pictured here is the infamous "Steel Justice" weight sled.

It just wouldn't be a Tractor Pull without an old school PA announcer telling you that a tractor is pulling a weight. Somehow he managed to make that a lot more exciting. I had the pleasure of speaking to him for a while, and noticed his button on his hat. If you can't read it it says, "Friends don't let friends drive green". Folks, this is a Massey man through and through and for some reason he dislikes John Deere.

Festival Trinket of the Week: A rubber chicken key ring. Like I said, there wasn't a whole lot going on. There was a fairly empty carnival area, and all the sad carnie faces looked dejected. The carnies were so bored, they didn't even heckle me as I walked by. As a fan of the Simpsons, I would advise you to not be a Rube and get on the trolley with this carnie episode. Or, if you want to learn how to beat those zany carnie games then this video is for you.

Video of the Week: I figure you might as well take a gander at an actual tractor pull. It's maybe not as exciting as you would think. It's more of a thinking man's competition, as it really is all physics. The experienced tractor puller knows that the pull is completely reliant on initial torque. Everyone knows Torque=ForcexDistance.

I will admit, I didn't really know what a gizzard was before attending this festival. If I had known it was actually a special stomach that contained gravel so a chicken can break down food without teeth, I may not have eaten it. If you want to know even more about gizzards then you can go to this site. I had no idea that gizzards were so popular. In fact, there are whole machine companies dedicated to gizzards and even a machine that could have replaced the three guys I saw earlier. Although, the love that made these "World Famous" would be lost. Here is the spot if you want some new ideas for gizzard recipes, or if you are a purist here is how to make classic fried gizzards. If you want a restaurant dedicated to all things gizzard, then get to Joe's Gizzard City in Potterville, MI.

Now maybe eating gizzards isn't for you, and I'm not sure I would again in the future, but there are plenty of other uses. Did you know gizzards were an ancient Chinese medicine for common human afflictions, and possibly even be beneficial to your cat's diet? Or that they make an excellent catfish bait, although you should use a treble hook to keep them on. Or maybe you would just like to create a race of mutant chickens that have teeth and don't need a stinking gizzard.

The ride home had me thinking about the gizzard. It essentially is Mother Nature's example of taking lemons and making lemonade. The gizzard provides the chicken the nutrients it needs by breaking down hard things that it could not do on its own. If only there was a gizzard for my everyday life. Something that could help break down the day's stresses, and make them something beneficial. These festivals have been fairly therapeutic so far for me, and I hope this site brings you a very brief respite from your stresses as well. Maybe this site is a gizzard? I was a philosophy major in school, and tend to get carried away at times. Too far? Ok here are some Gus Gizzard Glasses for your next party.

The silliness will continue, and hopefully with a shorter name (Please vote for a site on the left side or suggest one in the comments). Have a Good 4th of July!

Monday, June 21, 2010

#28 Hillbilly Days - Lebanon, MO - June 19, 2010

Hillbilly Days - Bennett Springs State Park (Lebanon, MO) - June 19, 2010

I was really looking forward to this festival, as the silliness potential was off the charts. Yes, it was a 2 1/2 hour drive each way, but one moonshine joke and it would have all been worth it. Sadly, I actually have a "real" job which required me to work late the night before and delayed my departure this fateful day. Apparently all of the silly games took place in the morning and I missed the cow chip throwing, lady nail driving and even the skillet toss. I did speak to a reporter that promised to forward me pictures, so check back for an update.

Yet, there was still a festival to be had. I was hoping for some roast possum, squirrel or any other type of roadkill animal but there was none to be found. Instead I came across this barbecued beef sandwich which tasted suspiciously like a sloppy joe. It did have actual pieces of beef (or so I was told) and it was pretty delicious. I definitely would have had another. This festival only allowed local non-profits to provide food, and they kept the proceeds. It is a great idea, unless you are there for the food. Culinary creativity did not reign.

Corn on the cob goes hand in hand with Summertime. Grilled corn reminds me of backyard BBQ's with my father at the grill. Alas, this corn was boiled. Boiling may be the worst cooking method for anything not named pasta. The corn was rather tasteless, but it was nice to eat an ear while sitting on a bale of hay in the middle of nowhere. I choose the typewriter method to eat my corn, how about you? What is the right way? My method wasn't the fastest last year.

Now this was more like it. I could see a person hanging a pot over this fire to be, and preparing whatever poor critter happened to cross their path. Instead it was just left to my imagination.

Bennett Springs Park was beautiful. The park has its own trout hatchery which brings in fishermen from around the region. Pictured here is a dam that was more picturesque than pictured (if possible). You can see the anglers in the water just above the crest where the trout would congregate trying to avoid being swept over the edge. The water was so clear you could see all the fish swimming around 3-4 feet below, and I got a better look as many of these anglers caught their dinner.

Festival Trinket of the Week: I was hoping for something whittled, made out of a jug of moonshine or something with a crafty saying on it. Instead I found these finger puppets. This is Yoda, what I expected to see here, and a penguin. Fun, but somewhat disappointing; my apologies.

Video of the Week: The entertainment for the night didn't actually begin until that evening, and I couldn't wait. I came across some young musicians jamming as they prepared to go onstage, but the moment I asked to record them the skies opened up with a torrential downpour. Needless to say, I didn't get the recording. They informed me the headliner for the night was Karli Cheyanne. Her promoter even told me she is the next big thing. Still feels creepy though. Yet, I feel this site has taken a role in bringing you some of the hottest musical artists on the festival circuit, and I must maintain that responsibility.

This festival started out as a one-time silly thing to raise some money for the city, but it was so successful that this was now their 37th year. Somewhere along those years this festival may have lost some of its soul. Don't get me wrong it was a great festival, but when you name something Hillbilly Festival you kind of expect to see some....well Hillbillies. Maybe Lebanon, MO has gotten awful tony for a mining town in the last 37 years. (If you knew that was from Tombstone then this clip is for you).

I guess I was just expecting more. With a name like Hillbilly Days, I simply thought hi jinx would ensue, but maybe I missed it in the morning. I think I was thinking of the cult classic movie "Dancing Outlaw" when I went. Don't worry, I have the whole film if you want to see more. Or, maybe I was even thinking of Cletus from the Simpsons when I got in my car to drive on down the road.

I was wondering where the term "hillbilly" came from, and was sadly not surprised when the state of Arkansas came through with the answer in their own special way. This site has always been primarily focused on the food, but I will indulge in other festivals if they are silly enough. If you are a FFF purist, then here are some hoo-dawgy recipes for you. Hillbilly has become a slightly derogatory term the way I have come to know it, but it shouldn't be that way. Here is a great sight featuring hillbilly music, and here is another great sight defending hillbillies across the country (explore this one). Or, if you just want a quick laugh then here are some new uses for your old computer.

So this festival wasn't as hillbillyriffic as I had hoped, but it was a beautiful day and drive. I will have to return to Bennett Springs State Park to canoe or fish some day, as that water looked amazing. This was also the first festival I had spoken to a reporter and a promoter. Maybe this site can actually be somewhat professional? I hadn't ought done do such a fool thing. If you want to see the hillbilly dictionary too, click here.

P.S. I'm thinking of a new Shorter Website Name to change to. Any thoughts?