Published October 10, 2013
Known for its changing leaves, pumpkin flavors and cooler air, autumn is also the season for some of the nation's oddest customs. Read below for a list in ascending order of the top 10 strangest fall traditions in the United States.
10. International Balloon Festival
Referred to by participants as the "Enchanted Sunrise," every October for the last 42 years, hundreds of ballooners hit the skies in Albuquerque, N.M. As one of the world's most renown attractions, the signature event known as the "Balloon Fiesta" is the largest ballooning event in the world, according to the event's website. Unlike other balloon events, guests are allowed to walk around the field among the hot air balloons and speak with their aviators. This year's festival will take place from Oct. 5 through Oct. 13, 2013.
9. Paul Bunyan Days
In Fort Bragg, Calif., on Labor Day weekend from Aug. 30 to Sept. 2, this festival honors the industry's famous life-logger, Paul Bunyan and celebrates the community's history. The three-day festival includes a logging show competition where participants battle for prize money in categories such as log rolling, ax throwing, chainsaw bucking and hand chopping. Other weekend events feature a forest exposition, two parades, tricycle races, an ugly dog contest, horseshoe tournament, pie sale and water fight. More Paul Bunyan days occur across the nation at various times throughout the year.
8. Kinetic Sculpture Race
Along the Southern California coastline in Ventura, Calif., engineers, artists and ocean-enthusiasts alike plunge into the waters of Ventura Bay to compete in the Kinetic Sculpture & Adventure Race. In its 16th year of existence, the race requires participants to build their own decorated contraptions that will survive the course's terrain and obstacles including, mud pits, water, sand and more. Vehicles are judged in multiple categories with awards ranging from speed to art and to spectators' choice. Other cities such as Baltimore, Md., host races too but the championships take place in California.
7. Bridge Day Festival
Off the New River Gorge Bridge in West Virginia every October, hundreds of daredevils jump from the 265 meter-high bridge. In its 34th year of existence this year, the Bridge Day Festival hosted more than 440 jumpers last year, all classified as BASE jumpers. BASE stands for building, antenna, span and earth. BASE jumpers are those who leap with rapid deployment parachutes from those apparatuses.
6. All Hallow's Eve
Halloween, 1984 pic.twitter.com/3uiMWW1uSy— Horror (@HorrificPics) October 3, 2013
More commonly known as Halloween, Oct. 31 marks the calendar for this widespread holiday. It is believed to have originated from the Celtic festival of Samhain but the night is now known for its nighttime trick-or-treating, costumes and spooky attractions. Many also celebrate by carving pumpkins, adorning front lawns with various ghost, goblin and witch statues or by scaring as many people as possible.
5. Mischief Night
Celebrated in the U.S., northern England and parts of Canada, Mischief Night, also referred to as Devil's Night, occurs on the eve of Halloween, on Oct. 30. On this night, neighbors play pranks on one another usually in the form of toilet papering or egging houses, and rearranging gates and garden gnomes. Like Halloween, the origins are unknown but the earliest evidence of a similar occurrence was observed more than two centuries ago.
4. Haunted Houses
Perhaps one of the most visited of attractions during the fall season are haunted houses. Arising from the superstition and eery aura of Halloween, haunted houses open across the nation beginning as early as mid- to late September. Embodying the Halloween spirit, these houses are set up in forgotten prisons, mental asylums, hotels, cemeteries and more. They range from simple walking tours to full-on entertainment as actors and actresses follow, frighten and sneak up on tourists visiting the buildings.
As a two-time winner for world's largest haunted house from the Guinness World Records, the supposed scariest of them all is located in Fort Worth, Texas. The Cutting Edge Haunted House was built in 1908 in an abandoned meat packing plant and has been ranked the number one scariest haunted house in the country by avid haunted house goers. The other top attractions across the nation include, The Darkness & Creepy World in St. Louis, Mo., Spookywoods in High Point, N.C., Headless Horseman in Ulster Park, N.Y., and Erebus Haunted House in Pontiac, Mich.
3. Punkin Chunkin
Created in the fall of 1986, Punkin Chunkin now has its own World Championships in Royal Farms, Del., and its own association. The Punkin Chunking Competition takes place every November, where contestants from all over the country travel to see who can launch, throw, catapult and slingshot a pumpkin the farthest distance. The event also features its own cooking contest followed by a chili cook-off on Sunday. This fall the competition will commence Nov. 1 to Nov. 3, 2013.
Snow! Last night in the #SantaFe mountains! I haven't been gone 3 weeks yet, but I bet you miss my warmth now! pic.twitter.com/IetciPHiBX— Burning of Zozobra (@burn_zozobra) September 24, 2013
Hosted by Santa Fe, N.M.'s, Kiwanis Club during the first weekend in September, the city engages in its annual burning of "Old Man Gloom." Old Man Gloom, also known as Zozobra, is a 50-foot, statuelike figure that is made to look part ghost, part monster, according to the event's website. The burning of the statue symbolizes the burning away of melancholy feelings from the previous year. The blaze is accompanied by fireworks, food, ceremonies and dances.
1. Burning Man
Journeying to Nevada's Black Rock Desert the last week of August, thousands of people flock to create Black Rock City, a city only in existence one week per year. Home to the Burning Man event, the city's inhabitants live out the week freely, without rules against self-expression or behavior, according to the event's website. The experience is centered around art and each year a theme is chosen for the week. The 2013 theme was cargo cult.