Clear your diary! Its summertime, which has inspired these bizarre outdoor festivals across the world throughout July – it’s time to join the madness;
Palio di Siena, Italy – 2 July 2013
The lively horse race and pageant of the Palio di Siena, aka Il Palio, is held twice annually in the Tuscany region of Italy. Ten colourfully-clad riders race their horses through the Piazza del Campo square three times. Blink and you’ll miss it though, as the race only lasts around ninety seconds! And in case you do miss it, the second leg is held on 16th August.
Cairns Ukulele Festival, Australia – 4 July 2013
The eccentric Cairns Ukulele Festival is the largest of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere. Lovers of the ukulele will enjoy workshops, jams, and ukulele building classes held annually over four days each July. There are also performances from some of the world's top ukulele players. This event isn't just for people who play the ukulele though, and visitors will also find an art exhibit and mystery tour. In 2013, the festival will attempt to set a world record for the largest ukulele ensemble. Ukulele players from around the globe will gather to play the song Waltzing Matilda, Australia's unofficial nation anthem.
Calgary Stampede, Canada – 5 July 2013
Skilled rodeo riders relish the opportunity to show off their skills at the annual Calgary Stampede in Canada this month. First held in 1912, the Alberta province festival attracts over 1 million annual spectators – checked skirts and cowboy boots are a must!
Swamp Soccer, Sweden – 5 July 2013
This weird festival is pretty much exactly as the name suggests – soccer teams compete in dank, muddy swamp conditions – simple! Dubbed ‘Sweden's dirtiest football tournament’, this event is held over two days, where the locals will be praying for sunny conditions. Various other Scandinavian destinations, such as Hyrynsalmi in Finland also hold their own versions of swamp soccer through the summer.
Wife Carrying World Championships, Finland – 5 July 2013
On the first Saturday of July, the town of Sonkajärvi in Finland will crown a new world champion in the bizarre sport of wife carrying. The sport originates from a 19th century Finnish legend about men stealing wives from neighboring villages. This particular event has been held annually since 1992, and many other countries have imitation races of their own. Men must carry a woman (marriage is not actually a requirement) over an obstacle course of grass, gravel, and sand. The course measures 831 feet (253.5 meters) in length. There is also a team event at the World Championships, in which three men carry a wife in a relay. The top prize is the wife's weight in beer. Despite international participation, the winners usually come from Finland or Estonia.
Pamplona, Running of the Bulls Festival, Spain – 6 July 2013
If you fancy the thrill and excitement of being chased through the streets on Pamplona in northern Spain by a herd of bulls, then the annual Running of the Bulls Festival is for you! Thousands take part in this historical, yet controversial spectacle. Rest assured that although hundreds suffer injuries each year, only 15 people have died in Pamplona since 1910, with the most recent death in 2009.
Feast of Santa Domenica, Italy – 6 July 2013
The Feast of Santa Domenica is held in the region of Salento, which is located in southern Italy (on the ‘heel’ part of the map). It occurs over three days in early July as a way to celebrate the saint who saved the town of Scorrano from the bubonic plague. During the day, Eucharistic celebrations and other religious ceremonies take place. At night, the town is decorated in lights, and visitors come from all over the country to see the amazing display. There are also concerts, street performances and fireworks displays in the area.
SandSations Sandcastle Competition, USA – 10 July 2013
This family-friendly event is held every year in the small town of Long Beach, Washington. Professional sand sculptors build mind-blowing creations made entirely out of sand, and top prize wins $1,200. There are also competitions open for families and beginners. SandSations has been running for over 25 years, and it attracts visitors from all over the country. The rules of the competition require that all teams have fun and a bonfire on the beach caps off the day's entertainment.
And if you’re on the opposite side of the US, you can also join in the mega-sandcastle build-athon too at the annual US Open Sandcastle Competition. This has been held in California’s Imperial Beach on 26th July 2013 for three days since 1981.
Cactus Festival, Belgium – 12 July 2013
Cactus Festival is a large music festival that is held at Minnewaterpark in Bruges, Belgium. The concerts and events take place over three days in July, and it draws crowds of up to 28,000 people. First held in 1972, the festival attracts top music acts from Belgium and around the world. In comparison to many other music festivals, all of Cactus Festival's performances take place on one main stage, so festival-goers won't have to decide which acts to watch and which to miss. Acts for 2013 include Razorlight, Calexico, Bonnie Raitt, The Tallest Man on Earth, and Blaudzun.
Boryeong Mud Festival, South Korea – 13 July 2013
And you thought that mud-based festivals were only the norm in the UK?! Well, not to be outdone is the annual Boryeong Mud Festival which is held each July in Daecheon in South Korea. For two weeks, millions of eager participants frolic in the mud which is praised for its health benefits. The natural mineral-rich mud is also used locally in cosmetics. As well as mud body painting, mud skiing and mud slides, there is also an event called, rather eerily, mud prison - join in if you dare!
Image Credit; Guthiwoody