Friday, 14 August 2009

Weird Festival Photos

Rail Watch - Folkston, Georgia

In April 2009 festival-goers in rural Georgia admire a new mural, showing a coal train traveling the Okefenokee Railroad.

The ninth annual Railwatch Day occurred in Folkston, a hub for all the trains that run to nearby Florida.

Photographer and National Geographic Young Explorer Ross McDermott seeks out little-known and offbeat events and festivals for insights into small-town culture and American life.

With photographer Andrew Owen, he has documented 25 festivals since 2008.

''I believe the true human spirit is revealed in an atmosphere of celebration and gathering,'' he said.

World's Largest Rattlesnake Roundup - Sweetwater, Texas

Spectators watch snakes being weighed in a pit in Sweetwater, Texas.

Every March for 51 years, collectors have delivered thousands of western diamondbacks that are later killed for scientific and commercial use—culling about one percent of the state's rattlers, experts estimate.

Herpetologists and conservationists oppose the roundups, which fetch a collector U.S. $5 per pound of snake. This year's take: 5,000 pounds (2,268 kilograms).

Photographer and National Geographic Young Explorer Ross McDermott seeks out little-known and offbeat events and festivals.

Idiotaro - New York City

New York City's annual Idiotarod began as a spoof of the 1,150-mile (1,851-kilometer) Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race across Alaska. Here, costumed competitors race shopping carts for five miles (eight kilometers) in three of New York's five boroughs.

Rules are loose, observed photographer Andrew Owen, who has documented 25 local festivals with National Geographic Young Explorer Ross McDermott since 2008.

"Within a few minutes of the start," Owen said, "this racer pulled an old chair out into the course in an effort to slow down the teams behind him."

Quiet Festival - Ocean City, New Jersey

Outside City Hall in Ocean City, New Jersey, participants gathered for the 19th annual Quiet Festival in November 2008.

"People threw maple leaves or [seedlings], watched them fall to the ground, and then had a yawn-off," said Ross McDermott, a National Geographic Young Explorer who photographs festivals around the United States.

Other festival happenings include a wind-chime symphony, a poetry reading, group whispering, and naps.

Mud Football Championship - North Conway, New Hampshire

Teams converged in October 2008 from all over the Northeast for North Conway, New Hampshire's Mud Football Championship, an annual competition in knee-deep mud.

Here, two sludge-covered survivors of the affiliated synchronized swimming event cross a North Conway street, on their way to shake hands and offer mucky hugs to bystanders.

National Geographic Young Explorer Ross McDermott seeks out little-known and offbeat events and festivals to photograph.

Winter Carnival - Hanover, New Hampshire

Shivering in their skivvies, Dartmouth University students prepare to dive into the frigid waters of Occom Pond in Hanover, New Hampshire. The February 2009 polar plunge was part of the school's annual Winter Carnival.

"An attendant tied string around their waists just in case they passed out from the shock of the cold water," said photographer and National Geographic Young Explorer Ross McDermott.

Dozens of polar plunges are held throughout the United States, and many raise money for charity.

World Toboggan Championships - Camden, Maine

The World Toboggan Championships, held in February 2009, attracted some 300 teams from across the Northeast to race down the Snow Bowl in Camden, Maine, onto frozen Lake Placid.

Many contestants chose to wear costumes. Here, members of the four-man Wonder Sled team, dressed as loaves of Wonder Bread, apply wax to their toboggan.

The team came in 46th but won the award for best costume.

Photographers Andrew Owen and Ross McDermott have documented 25 offbeat U.S. festivals since 2008.

Fasnacht - Helvetia, West Virginia

Fasnacht, an annual celebration in Helvetia, West Virginia (pop. 70), marks the end of winter and the beginning of Lent.

With roots in Switzerland, where many of Helvetia's original settlers came from, the Fasnacht festival includes a moonlit parade, square dance, and an effigy burning of Old Man Winter.

"Little girls dance with their dads and old couples shuffle their feet," said photographer and National Geographic Young Explorer McDermott. "It feels like nothing in the world could possibly go wrong."

World Water Tasting Competition - Berkeley Springs, West Virginia

If it seems that water tastes pretty much the same, the judges at the 19-year-old World Water Tasting Competition will beg to differ.

The panel gathers in Berkeley Springs, West Virginia, every February (above, in February 2009) to sample and rate nearly a hundred waters from eight countries in four categories: spring, mineral, carbonated, and municipal.

This year's winners, which included bottled waters from Virginia and California, were selected for their appearance, aroma, texture, initial taste, and aftertaste.

National Geographic Young Explorer McDermott regularly photographs offbeat festivals throughout the United States.

Red Hat Convention - Grand Rapids, Michigan

Every September, hundreds of women age 50 and older don red headgear and descend on Grand Rapids, Michigan, for the Red Hat Convention.

"We believe silliness is the comedy relief of life," says the website of the Red Hat Society, a 40,000-chapter, national organization that runs the event and promotes a lighthearted approach to middle age.

Here, a participant shows photographer and National Geographic Young Explorer Ross McDermott her tattoo. After taking her photo, he watched her roar off on a motorcycle.

Mardi Gras - Rural Louisiana

In central Louisiana, rural Mardi Gras revelers parade over miles of countryside, stopping at houses and begging for ingredients to make traditional gumbo.

"The owner of the house typically throws a chicken into the air and the crowd chases the chicken to a tackle," said photographer and National Geographic Young Explorer Ross McDermott. Then it goes into the pot.

Costumed partygoers drink and dance to Cajun music. Unlike the better known New Orleans celebration, "there was absolutely nothing commercial" about the rural event, said photographer Andrew Owen.

World's Largest Machine Gun Shootout - West Point, Kentucky

Tracer fire lights up the night sky in West Point, Kentucky, in this photo taken in October 2008.

Some 30,000 men, women, and children gather here every year to take part in the "nation's largest machine gun shoot." Organizers from a local gun range enforce strict safety precautions to avoid injuries.

"You can rent any machine gun ever made," said photographer and National Geographic Young Explorer Ross McDermott, who has captured many local festivals around the United States.

"The noise is thundering. Everyone wears ear protectionall weekend long."

Woolly Worm Festival - Banner Elk, North Carolina

Participants coax worms up strings at the October 2008 Woolly Worm Festival in Banner Elk, North Carolina, where 1,400 striped worms were raced to predict the coming winter's weather.

Each worm has 13 black or brown stripes, corresponding to the 13 weeks of winter. "A brown stripe means a mild week of winter," said photographer and National Geographic Young Explorer Ross McDermott, and "a black stripe means a harsh week."

The winning worm's stripes will predict each week's severityand organizers claim the predictions are usually correct.

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