First Place Oddities

You’ve heard of watermelon seed spitting contests, but here’s a new twist.

Cowboys and urbanites alike merge for the annual Spring Festival in Barstow, Calif., during which they take part in a tobacco chewing and spitting championship. Distance is the name of the game, and spectators keep their distance to avoid unexpected brown geysers.

While the festival is held on Mother’s Day weekend, this is one event that truly turns a cheek to Mother’s etiquette lessons.

The summer highlight in West Sussex, England, is the Lawnmower Derby, an annual 12-hour race.

Pulling enough popularity to merit an official club, the British Lawnmower Racing Association (founded in 1973) has its own magazine and Web site. It claims to be “a well-organized and inexpensive motor sport.”

Lookout, Richard Petty. Here comes John Deere.

Staffordshire, England, hosts the annual World Toe Wrestling Championship, sponsored solely by Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream. The wacky sport, now in its seventh year, features same-sex opponents seated on a “toedium,” toes interlocked on the “toesrack.”

Each match is decided by the best of three legs: right big toe, left big toe, then right big toe again if a decision is needed.

While most would balk at the idea of going toe-to-toe with an opposer’s bared foot, the winning contestants, toting nicknames such as Kamikaze and Destroyer, strive to keep their feet above the rest.

Robert Wyatt walked away with the coveted title of World Toe Wrestling Champion for 2001, a “toe-tal” success.

St. George, S.C., boasts that it’s the Grit Capital of the World.Breakfast giant Quaker Oats sponsors a Rolling in the Grits contest every year, during which contestants must dive into a grits-filled baby pool, trying to get as much of the mush as possible to stick to their bodies.

The event has grown so popular that several neighboring towns feature buttery re-mixes.

The world record is currently held at 53 pounds of grits.

Every July, the Vancouver Sea Festival features a race across the choppy waters of the Strait of Georgia.

Contestants strapped into propelled bathtubs jet through the water to reach the other end. Tubbers fly across the surface in gleaming ivory and claw-footed stainless steel.

While the idea is similar to a regular boat, local residents say that the event truly has to be seen to be believed. Either way, the winner certainly does come out squeaky clean.

The Beer Can Regatta Raft Race is a popular event held each year off Mindil Beach in Australia. The Regatta is a weeklong festival honoring, depending on and dedicated to beer and beer cans.

What better way to end a week than with a race in which boats, rafts or anything else that doesn’t sink is constructed entirely of beer cans.

Helping along (sometimes helping to sink) these highly technical vessels are a fleet of power boats and canoes, many of which sport fire hoses to shoot down rivals.

Swaying spectators stagger along the shoreline, cheering as one canny craft sinks to a watery grave. Few manage to finish the distance, but then, after finishing enough beer to build a boat, who’d even remember?

Every year, Big Mountain Ski and Summer Resort in Montana hosts its Annual Furniture Races. Rules are simple for entry: Skis must be attached securely to couches, recliners, love seats – some people even bring toilets. The pieces are then towed to the top of the slope so they can race down the mountain.

Racers are required to construct a mechanism that allows them to steer the furniture and are required to wear a helmet.It gives a new ring to “airing out the furniture.”