The World’s Bizarre Festivals

People of all nationalities celebrate festivals to mark a religious event, to commemorate some significant occasions in their history, to preserve their traditions and just for merry-making. Festivals are organized to unite people and to provide entertainment. Every country has its own unique customs and events. There are many famous festivals around the world such as the Carnivals in Rio de Janeiro and Venice. They are very large and colourful events which draw huge crowds of local people and tourists. But there are a lot of smaller festivals going on in different countries every day of the year. Some of them are quite usual. Others are bizarre and crazy.

La Tomatina is a food fight festival held on the last Wednesday of August each year in the town of Bunol in the Valencia region of Spain. Tens of thousands of participants come from all over the world to fight in a brutal battle and to get a memorable experience. The tomato fight has been a tradition in Bunol since 1944 or 1945. No one is completely certain how this event originated. There is a theory that a simple tomato fight between a group of friends in the town’s main square — Plaza del Pueblo — has turned into the world’s largest food fight. Shopkeepers along the Plaza use huge plastic covers in order to protect their storefronts. At around 10 a. m. many trucks haul 90, 000 pounds of tomatoes into the center of the town. The festival does not begin until one brave person has climbed to the top of a two-story high, greased-up wooden pole and reached the ham at the top. But this process is very hard and takes a long time and the festival starts despite no one reaching the meat. During the fight the participants must squish the tomatoes before throwing for safety reasons. The fighting begins and ends within the space of an hour. Then the cleaning process begins: dirty combatants take showers and fire trucks spray water down the streets.

The Cooper’s Hill Cheese Rolling is an annual event held on the second May Bank Holiday at Cooper’s Hill in Gloucestershire, England. Competitors race down the hill after a Double Gloucester cheese, and the first person over the line wins the cheese. Competitors are trying to catch the cheese, but it is almost impossible as it can reach speeds up to 70 mph. The festival has been going for over 100 years. The master of ceremonies wearing a top hat and a white coat releases the 7 pound cheese and allows the competitors to throw themselves down the hill. Such a risky adventure often results in minor and serious injuries and some people have to be carted off by ambulance. Children aren’t allowed to race, but there are a few uphill races for boys and girls.

There are eccentric and fun-loving people among Americans as well. If you want to remember your childhood and get muddy, the annual World Pillow Fighting Championships are for you. Anyone over the age of 14 can take part in the fight. Competitors have to stand on a slippery wet pole suspended over a pit of mud holding a wet feather pillow in one hand. The first contestant to topple his opponent into the mud wins the fall. On the whole the fight is rather entertaining and funny. ‘ The Finnish are fond of organizing odd festivals. One of them is the Wife Carrying Championships in Sonkajarvi. If a man wants to take part in the championships, he must bring a wife but not necessarily his. Carrying their wives contestants must negotiate a 253.5 metre course covering sand, grass and asphalt. It is rather difficult but the winner gets his wife’s weight in beer.

There are a lot of other bizarre festivals in the world such as Great American Bathtub Race in Alaska, the USA, the World Sauna Championships in Heinola, Finland, the World’s Biggest Liar Competition in Wasdale, England, Camel Wrestling in the Aegean region, Turkey and many other festivals in different parts of the world. Maybe some of them are silly and crazy but they remind us that life is not boring at all and we should derive as much pleasure as we can from it. Besides laughter makes us healthier and lengthens our lives.

1. Read the following sentences and circle TRUE or FALSE: 1) La Tomatina is a food fight festival during which its participants throw apples at each other. — T F
2) The fight takes place in the town’s main square — Plaza del Pueblo. — T F
3) The Cooper’s Hill Cheese Rolling takes place in Gloucestershire, England three times a year. — T F
4) It is very easy to catch the 7 pound cheese. — T F
5) Children are allowed to race down the hill with adults. — T F
6) Anyone over the age of 14 can take part in the World Pillow Fighting Championships. — T F
7) If a man wants to take part in the Wife Carrying Championships, he must bring his wife. — T F
2. Complete each sentence (A-H) with one of the endings (1-8): A. People of all nationalities celebrate festivals to
B. La Tomatina is a food fight festival held on the last Wednesday of August each year
C. Shopkeepers along the Plaza use huge plastic covers in order to
D. The festival does not begin until one brave person
E. Competitors race down the hill after a Double Gloucester cheese, and the first person over the line
F. Such a risky adventure often results in
G. If you want to remember your childhood and get muddy
H. Carrying their wives contestants must negotiate
1. wins the cheese.
2. the annual World Pillow Fighting Championships are for you.
3. has climbed to the top of a two-story high, greased-up wooden pole and reached the ham at the top.
4. a 253.5 metre course covering sand, grass and asphalt.
5. in the town of Bunol in the Valencia region of Spain.
6. mark a religious event, to commemorate some significant occasions in their history, to preserve their traditions and just for merry-making.
7. protect their storefronts.
8. minor and serious injuries.
3. Say a few words about the rules of each festival

4. Answer the questions 1) Why do people organize festivals?
2) What do you think about La Tomatina? What adjectives would you choose to characterize this festival (crazy, silly, entertaining, hazardous, funny, etc)?
3) Why must the participants squish the tomatoes before throwing?
4) Why is the Cooper’s Hill Cheese Rolling a risky adventure?
5) What is your attitude to the World Pillow Fighting Championships?
6) What do you think about the Wife Carrying Championships? Do you agree that they may symbolize the hardships of marriage?
7) Which festival would you like to take part in? Why?
8) What other bizarre festivals do you know?

5. Fill in the table The name of the festival FOR AGAINST
la Tomatina
the Cooper’s Hill Cheese Rolling
the World Pillow Fighting Championships
the Wife Carrying Championships
6. Look at the pictures below and say which of the activities are the most bizarre to your mind. Use the words and word combinations from the table
1. elephant riding;
2. swamp soccer;
3. bull riding;
4. bathtub race;
5. extreme ironing;
6. hamburger eating contest
to provide entertainment, merry-making, to draw crowds of spectators, to watch with amusement, risky and hazardous, to get muddy, to behave like a kid, to get a portion of adrenaline, foolhardy, to result in injuries, to overcome fear, participants’ adventurous nature, memorable experience, a huge animal, to lose one’s head, to derive pleasure, to leave other contestants far behind, to contend for a prize, to outsmart the infuriated animal
Find some extra information on the topic ‘The World’s Bizarre Festivals’ and prepare a report.

A. Give the definition of the word ‘festival’.

B. Are you a fun-loving person? Read the text ‘The World’s Bizarre Festivals’ and say what you think about them.

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The World’s Bizarre Festivals