5. The World’s Largest Disco
Speaking of the aforementioned Festivals.com, this virtual festival community named this disco to beat all discos the “Greatest Event on Earth.” Hyperbole aside, when the event was first launched in 1979, more than 13,000 dancers perfected their “points” and “hustles” to Gloria Gaynor at the Buffalo Convention Center — and earned the event a spot as the “World’s Largest Disco” in the Guinness Book of World Records. Each November, more than 7,000 dancers who refuse to believe disco is dead turn out to dance and be seen. The dancers are joined by celebrities from the era, with past guests including Henry Winkler (The “Fonz” on Happy Days), Erik Estrada of CHiPS fame and pretty much all the TV progeny of Mike and Carol Brady. For those who would say no good can come from something that resurrects, even for one night, a form of music that was harshly criticized even in its heyday, there is good news: the World’s Largest Disco has raised more than $2 million for charity. The 2011 event is set for Nov. 26.
4. Going Coastal Geocaching Festival
For those unfamiliar with the lingo, “geocaching” is like a sophisticated hide-and-seek: You get clues (using coordinates, a GPS and navigational know-how) to find a hidden container or geocache. Sometimes there may be little trinkets or prizes for those who find the containers, but typically your “treasure” is a logbook, which those finders sign to prove that they were there. The Going Coastal event is geocaching in hyper-drive. Held in and around Georgia’s Skidaway Island State Park, some 400 geocachers spend four days in November putting their navigational skills to the test to earn bragging rights or real “treasure” in 12 events, which include GPS accuracy competitions and night geocaching. Even if you’re a novice at geocaching, event organizers promise plenty of food and the opportunity to camp out in the picturesque state park.
3. World Championship Punkin Chunkin
After more than two decades, punkin’ chunkin’ is finally getting some love from the broader populace, thanks to the Discovery Channel televising the event to coincide with the Thanksgiving holiday. Though many of the show’s fans may think the concept of catapulting, hurling or otherwise propelling this fall food and pie staple many feet through the air is a new concept, punkin’ chunkin’ festivals have been held throughout the country for years. The premier such event is the annual World Championship Punkin Chunkin in Sussex County, Delaware. During the course of three days, garage tinkerers and ingenious engineers alike showcase contraptions that have been calibrated to the weight of either 8- or 10-pound pumpkins with the goal of hurling them great distances. In the early days, the best chunkers were lucky to launch a pumpkin 120 feet; now elite chunkers send pumpkins soaring more than half a mile.
2. Bridge Day Festival
If a “bridge day” festival conjures up images of taking in the beautiful scenery from the top of a bridge, think again. At this festival over the New River Gorge in West Virginia, you’ll be jumping from an 876-foot tall bridge — one of the world’s highest bridges. How’s that for enjoying the natural surroundings? You can’t just be any thrill-seeker, though; to qualify to jump from the bridge, you need to be a veteran skydiver. More than 800 such BASE (for Building, Antenna, Span and Earth) jumpers qualify to make the leap at some point during the six hours when the bridge is open for this extreme sport on the third Saturday each October. If hurling your body over the side of a bridge sounds crazy to you, visitors can watch the jumpers from the bottom of the gorge. The festival also offers the opportunity to raft and camp in the New River Gorge. Some 80,000 people descend upon this corner of the Mountain State for the event each year.
1. Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta
You can either pilot your own hot air balloon or be a passenger in one operated by the Rainbow Ryders — either way you’ll be welcome at this nine-day fiesta of all things ballooning. During the first week of October, you can be among the 100,000 enthusiasts who feast their eyes on more than 700 hot-air balloons. And we’re not talking just “traditional” striped balloons; there are illuminated balloons and night launches, as well as those shaped like cartoon characters, animals – more than 100 different shapes are represented each year. When the first fiesta was held in 1973, only 13 balloons took to the sky. Now hundreds alight in just a couple of hours. The event has also spawned a year-round Balloon Fiesta Park, which is the size of 54 football fields and serves as the launch field during the annual event.