Around The Rim Country

Trappin' coons and drivin' real slow

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If you think things are a little whacky up here in the Rim country, you need to get your hands on a new book called "America Bizarro" by Nelson Taylor (St. Martin's Griffin, $14.95).

"It's a weird place, America," Taylor says, and no matter how strange your own hobby or interest, chances are there's somebody somewhere in this great land who shares that same passion. What's more, he says, somebody is probably celebrating it at a festival near you.

That's right folks, "America Bizarro," subtitled "A Guide to Freaky Festivals, Groovy Gatherings, Kooky Contests, and Other Strange Happenings Across the U.S.A.," is a compendium of strange events and happenings organized on a state-by-state basis. Taylor is already planning a sequel, tentatively titled "America Even More Bizarro," and we're all invited to contribute.

But before we jump ahead, let's look at festivals that exist in the here and now. In East Dublin, Ga., for example, you can attend the Summer Redneck Games featuring such competitions as the mud-pit belly flop, a seed-spitting contest, bobbing for pigs' feet, and, of course, the big hair tournament.

Head on over to Gibsland, La., home of the Bonnie & Clyde Festival, and you can watch local thespians re-enact the classic death scene from the Warren Beatty/Faye Dunaway film. What do you bet you can also get a souvenir water globe of the aftermath of that scene to take home to the in-laws.

Other events listed in the book include the Dukes of Hazzard Fan Club Convention, the Liberace Play Alike Competition, and the Polar Bear Plunge (held in February on the shores of New Jersey). You can even munch on Rocky Mountain oysters at Montana's gala Testicle Festival or win a truck at Texas' famous Hands on a Hardbody contest.

Here in Arizona, there is Oatman's notorious Sidewalk Egg-Frying Challenge, Glendale's Front Porch Festival, and the Southwest Quilt and Train Festival in Holbrook.

But enough fun and excitement, because we have a job to do. One of the long-term goals of this burg's movers and shakers is to return the Rim country its former glory as the Festival Capital of Arizona.

The rationale is that with a festival or event every single weekend of the year, we'd extend the tourist season in perpetuity, and therefore have our streets clogged as far as the eye can see on a more or less permanent basis. Scream and holler if you want, but the way I look at it, having people come up for the weekend and leave their money beats the heck out of having them come up here to camp and not spend money, or, worse yet, move up here for good.

Therefore we need to start building on our existing base of fine festivals and events including the June Bug Blues Festival, Old Time Fiddlers Contest, Rim Country Western Heritage Festival, Tonto Apache Pow Wow, August Doin's, and the Strawberry Festival with a whole passel of new ones to fill out the calendar.

To get us started, I propose the following:

Juniper Berry Festival Let's begin with the obvious. We have more juniper berries than we have air (or certainly water), so let the party begin. For starters, all the restaurants could feature juniper berry menu items. (Sugar can make anything palatable, rhubarb being a case in point.) And don't forget, they make gin out of juniper berries.

Trophy, Tackle, Embroidery and Bicycle Festival As they've already discovered in Holbrook, by combining hobbies and interests you can bring in more people. Why not take a cue from everybody's favorite mom-and-pop business and attract four different special interest groups to the same festival. Besides we could do a triathlon where you ride your bicycle to the lake and embroider while you're waiting for the fish to bite. To the winner goes, what else, a trophy.

Cheez Whiz Festival Let others feature gourmet foods unique to their region. We will appeal to the masses with a food nobody could possibly dislike.

Tyler Slow Drivers Festival Statistics show that 76 percent of all drivers go too slow. We happen to have the world's slowest parkway right in our hometown. It's a match made in heaven. Make that a match made in the world's least populated "residential neighborhood."

AIMS Lower Festival (aka Fuzzy Math Festival) If it's numbers that make a successful festival, we need to capitalize on this one. With over 80 percent of all students failing the math portion of this infamous test, the odds of a good turnout are staggering. Just don't ask this group to calculate them.

Ruby Finney Coon Trapping Festival Bring your traps and come on up! And when all the coons are rounded up, Ruby can take the trappers down to town hall for an evening of power broker breakin'.

Spittin' Festival We don't know why guys have to spit every 12.5 seconds, but we might as well take advantage of the fact that they do. In the process, we might solve that nasty drought problem.

Dennis Pirch Fishin' and Rasslin' Tournament Don't ask us why. It just sounds cool. Anybody for Cheez Whiz Rasslin'? Whoops, wrong festival.

Biscuits and Gravy/Balloon Angioplasty Festival A cause and effect thing. All roads in town are turned into one-way streets leading to PRMC.

1980 Festival They say the Rim country is 20 years behind the times. Instead of fighting it, I say let's celebrate it. Admission includes a Ronald Reagan mask.

"America Even More Bizarro" here we come.

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