Small town festivals to visit this year!

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Not every town festival is satisfied with corn dogs and barn animals. While some carnivals, livestock barns and fair foods can start to feel monotonous, there are festivals scattered throughout the United States that pair town pride with everything from hot air balloon rides to hollerin’ contests to an annual running of llamas. Each part of the country has something unique to offer and will have you begging to take a cross-country road trip to get to them all.

The Tulip Time festival in Holland, Michigan, has been on and off since it began in 1929, but today the celebration draws around 500,000 people from around the world to revel in the natural beauty of more than four million tulips. With a nod to the city’s Dutch heritage, this festival is also known for three distinctive parades including the Volksparade with parade participants dressed in Dutch costumes; the Muziekparade where parade-goers can enjoy music, dancing and floats; and the largest children’s parade in the state, the Kinderparade. The week-long celebration begins May 7, 2016. Make sure to pick up tulip bulbs while you’re there! Tulip Time recommends Nelis’ Dutch Village, Veldheer Tulip Garden and Windmill Island Gardens.

Join the people of Fort Wayne, Indiana, on September 17 and 18 to celebrate the 42nd annual Johnny Appleseed Festival. This festival offers a historically authentic recreation of the time of Johnny Appleseed for a fun, educational day filled with all sorts of attractions. Traders, storytellers and more show you how early American pioneers lived while you snack on freshly made caramel corn or old-fashioned chicken and dumplings. Plus, the Johnny Appleseed Festival is home to more than 100 craft booths, so you can get your fix of handmade soaps, candies, satchels and other home goods.

We can always count on Wisconsin to offer up some less-than-typical summer festivals. Taking a break from the cheese and the beer will bring you to Hammond, Wisconsin, near the St. Croix River, for a fluffy, one-of-a-kind experience: The Running of the Llamas. The second weekend of every September, the streets of Hammond come alive with llama-themed games and activities until the real event begins. The main street is blocked off to make way for 12 llamas and their handlers, all vying for the prize of a lifetime: a bucket full of fresh vegetables, of course. This year marks its 20th event celebration. That’s a lot of llamas.

Travel to Quechee, Vermont, for the longest continuously running Hot Air Balloon Festival in New England. Nestled in luscious green foothills, the festival also boasts more than 60 craft artisans and vendors, along with children’s activities plus a wine and beer garden. Book either a tethered or ascension balloon ride for the 37th annual event over Father’s Day Weekend. A tethered ride gives you a sweet taste of flying as you float about 50 feet in the air while connected to a rope, while the full ascension ride lets you gracefully soar over the entire festival and surrounding areas for 30 to 40 minutes. In the meantime, take a virtual balloon ride on the festival’s website.

Further down the East Coast you’ll find a hollerin’ good time in Spivey’s Corner, North Carolina. Home to fewer than 100 people, Spivey’s Corner exponentially increases its population for a weekend in June, with 5,000 to 10,000 gathering around for the National Hollerin’ Contest. But don’t let the name fool you. The contest looks for more than just a mere scream or long-winded lungs. These contestants’ voices are more like musical instruments that actually pay tribute to the town’s history; it began in 1969 when the co-founders and participants of the festival wanted to stage a revival of the lost hollerin’ art. Now the festival includes a barbecue and live music on top of the hollerin’.

Looking for a getaway in November? Head to Apalachicola, Florida, for one of the oldest maritime events, the Florida Seafood Festival, where fresh fish is just the beginning. Enjoy delicious food from the sea and catch the highly competitive oyster shucking and oyster eating contests. And once you’ve had your fill of beachy delicacies, check out the carnival, parade, fireworks or musical entertainment.

The aptly named named Grapevine is in the country’s fifth-largest wine-producing state-Texas-and it has an entire celebration to remind you. In its 30th year, GrapeFest draws everyone from children to those well beyond the drinking age limit to experience the wide world of grapes. Grapestomp is one of the most popular events during the four-day festival, where two fast-footed people pair up to stomp 18 pounds of grapes for two minutes. There is a grand finale on Sunday to declare the grape stomping champion and receive the Purple Foot Award. We wouldn’t expect it any other way. Cheers! HLM

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