strange, bizarre and kooky holidays in February

National Champion Crab Races Day

Today is National Champion Crab Races Day. How did it get its start?

There’s only one Kentucky Derby, there’s only one Indy 500, and there’s only one crab race – the NCRA.”

So says Jim Morgan, who founded the National Crab Racing Association (NCRA) in 1979. His first act was to appoint himself “Commissioner for Life,” preventing the possibility of being voted out, a problem which plagues other sports.

Next, he went looking for a few good crabs. For six months, he scoured Florida for world-class racers, to no avail. Fate intervened one day on a beach in Siesta Key where he struck up a conversation with the head of Florida Marine Research (FMR), the number one importer of hermit crabs in the world.  Thirty-seven years later,  their business relationship is still going strong.

national champion crab races day

FMR crabs in designer shells

Crabs with the most potential are put through a rigorous training program to develop discipline, skill and a winning attitude. As with all athletes, only the most outstanding racers make the cut.

Crabs with the right stuff join the roster of the official racing circuit. Each year one champion receives the prestigious Morgan Trophy, the NCRA equivalent of college football’s Heisman Trophy.

A racer’s professional career lasts only six months; it’s a physically demanding sport. After retirement, they are adopted by good families to live out their lives in comfort.

Crabs in captivity may live only one year but with regular activity, other crabs to socialize with, and a visually stimulating “crabitat,” can live up to 20 years. See Hermit Crabs for Dummies to learn more.

Since 1979, the NCRA has toured the USA and Canada. (Quarantine laws prevent travel for overseas competitions.) It hosts many races at fairs, festivals, seafood restaurants and corporate events. Check its schedule at crabrace.com.

Have a happy National Champion Crab Races Day! And don’t keep it to yourself—that would be shellfish.

Copyright © 2017 Worldwide Weird Holidays

Do a Grouch a Favor Day

Today is Do a Grouch a Favor Day. Merriam-Webster’s dictionary gives this definition of grouch:

Noun /ˈgrau̇ch/: A habitually irritable or complaining person

Origin: probably alteration of grutch grudge; from Middle English grucche, grugge, from grucchen

First Known Use: circa 1895

Synonyms: bear, bellyacher, complainer, crab, crank, croaker, crosspatch, curmudgeon,fusser, griper, grouser, growler, grumbler, grump, murmurer, mutterer, sourpuss, whiner

It defines favor as a kind or helpful act that you do for someone. Today is the day to look around for a grouch. They’re everywhere; sometimes you’ll even find one in the mirror.

do a grouch a favor day

Now, do something nice for that grouch: give up your place in line, reach something down from a high shelf, hold a door open. Don’t expect to melt a grouch’s heart in one day. With any luck, you could start a thaw. The only way to guarantee results? Try doing it every day. But whatever you do, don’t explain why you’re doing a kindness and never, ever use the word grouch!

Have a happy Do a Grouch a Favor Day!

Copyright © 2017 Worldwide Weird Holidays

February 15 is Susan B. Anthony Day

Susan B. Anthony DayToday is Susan B. Anthony DaySusan Brownell Anthony, born February 15, 1820,  was an American abolitionist and feminist who fought for women’s rights, including the right to vote, until her death in 1906.

The only weird thing about this holiday is that it is officially observed in only five states: Wisconsin, Florida, West Virginia, New York and California.

Anthony’s father believed his daughters should get a good education and sent her away to study. When she returned at age 14—women weren’t allowed to attend college—she took one of the few jobs deemed acceptable: teaching. She earned $2.50 a week while her male counterparts earned $10.00. She felt equal work deserved equal pay.

At that time, married women were required to give their wages to their husbands. Wives were property, as were their children. Any inheritance a wife received automatically belonged to her husband as well. Only single women could enter into contracts. Women, regardless of marital status, were not allowed to vote on social and political issues that affected their lives.

In 1840, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott, two women who would later become Anthony’s compatriots, were turned away and not allowed to speak against slavery at the World Anti-Slavery Convention in London — because they were women.

In 1848,  Mott, Stanton and others held a historic meeting in Seneca Falls, NY, where they issued a Declaration of Sentiments and Resolutions, detailing the disenfranchisement of women. It’s widely believed that Anthony met Stanton and Mott there.

In fact, she was not introduced to the two women until 1851. According to Lisa Tetrault, author of The Myth of Seneca Falls: Memory and the Women’s Suffrage Movement, 1848-1898, this misperception was encouraged by Anthony and Stanton to depict a unified movement, with the 1840 incident leading directly to the Seneca Falls “watershed moment” for the cause of women’s equality.

In actuality, there were many divisive issues. Some wanted to prioritize African-American male suffrage above white women’s suffrage. Splinter groups formed in support of free love, tax resistance, temperance and social purity. Many African-American women participated while also fighting to improve working conditions for freedwomen.

There’s no arguing that Susan B. Anthony was an essential part of the movement. She traveled around the country, rallying women with her rousing speeches. She was known to say, “The Constitution says, ‘We the people,’ not, ‘We the male citizens.'”

In January 1868, she and Stanton started a weekly newspaper called The Revolution in New York City. It focused primarily on women’s rights and suffrage, but also covered topics such as politics, finance and the labor movement. Its motto was “Principle, not Policy—Men, their rights and nothing more: Women, their rights and nothing less.”

Susan B Anthony Day

The Fifteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified on February 3, 1870. It states, “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.”

Although it made no mention of women, Anthony decided to vote in the 1872 presidential election, with the justification that she qualified as a “citizen” and was protected by the amendment. She and a group of other women were arrested after voting in her hometown of Rochester, NY. A trial was scheduled for early the following year.

Prior to 1878, federal courts barred criminal defendants from testifying or addressing the jury in their own trials. Before the trial, however, they were allowed to attempt to “educate” anyone who might be selected as a juror.

According to the Federal Judicial Center, “Anthony spoke in twenty-nine villages and towns of Monroe County, asking ‘Is It a Crime for a U.S. Citizen to Vote?’ When she delivered her lecture in Rochester, the county seat, a daily newspaper printed her speech in full, circulating it further.

In May, after many delays, U.S. Attorney Richard Crowley successfully petitioned to have the trial moved to a neighboring county, negating Anthony’s efforts to persuade the jury pool. She immediately drew up a schedule to visit every town she could in the month before her trial on June 17, 1783.

A jury of twelve men and Justice Ward Hunt listened to Crowley’s prosecutorial arguments for the better part of the day. Anthony’s defense attorney Henry Selden presented his case during the latter part of the afternoon.

The following day was devoted to Crowley’s recitation of the government’s case. At the end of the day, Justice Hunt declared that Anthony had knowingly violated the law and as a result, there was nothing for the jury to determine and it must return a verdict of guilty.

Selden argued for the jury’s right to decide guilt or innocence and its need to determine Anthony’s intent when voting. Hunt again told the jury it must deliver a guilty verdict and the clerk refused to allow Selden to poll the jury.

Selden returned to court the next day to file a motion for a new trial. In circuit courts, a motion was heard by the same judge whose actions had caused an attorney to file that motion. In other words, Justice Hunt would be asked to decide whether he had violated the Constitution by denying Anthony a trial by jury.

Unsurprisingly, Hunt denied the motion, stating that the right to a trial by jury “exists only in respect of a disputed fact,” and no facts were in dispute. Before sentencing her, Hunt asked Anthony if she had anything to say.

She responded with perhaps the most impassioned speech in the history of the fight for women’s rights, offering a blistering indictment of everything from the trial to male sovereignty to the responsibility to disobey unjust laws, such as those that had made it illegal to give a cup of water to a fleeing slave. (Transcript here.)

She condemned the proceedings she said “trampled under foot every vital principle of our government.” She had not received justice under “forms of law all made by men,” “failing, even, to get a trial by a jury not of my peers.”

Sentenced to pay a $100 fine and the costs of the prosecution, she swore to “never pay a dollar of your unjust penalty.” In a move calculated to preclude an appeal to a higher court, Hunt ended the trial by announcing, “Madam, the Court will not order you committed until the fine is paid.”

She continued to agitate, traveling to almost every state, speaking publicly at each stop. It’s been estimated that, in 60 years of tireless effort to win women the right to vote, she gave 75 to 100 speeches per year.  She served as president of the National American Women’s Suffrage Association (NAWSA) from 1892 to 1900 and kept battling until her death on March 13, 1906, at the age of 86.

The Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified on August 18, 1920. It states, “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.”

In 1979, the U.S. Mint introduced the Susan B. Anthony dollar, the first coin to bear the likeness of an American woman. We think she would have found it funny to be enshrined on federal money…

 Susan B. Anthony Day

…since she never paid that fine.

Copyright © 2017 Worldwide Weird Holidays

February 14 is National Ferris Wheel Day

Today is National Ferris Wheel Day, a holiday that celebrates the birth of George Washington Gale Ferris on February 14, 1859. At age 33, he designed the first Ferris Wheel, which was introduced at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition.

national ferris wheel day

The exhibition was also known as the Chicago World’s Fair and commemorated the 400th anniversary of Columbus’ landing in the New World. It was one year late but, considering that Columbus actually landed on an island in the Caribbean, thought he was in Asia and never set foot on what would become the United States, maybe we should let it slide.

national ferris wheel day

The Ferris Wheel was America’s answer to the Eiffel Tower, the jewel of the 1889 Paris Exposition. When completed, the ride stood 264feet high, with a circumference of 825 feet, and had 36 cars, each 24 feet long, 13 feet wide and 10 feet high, weighing 26,000 pounds. Screens were fitted over the glass windows on each side. Doors locked securely; firefighting equipment was included. Conductors rode in each car to answer questions and allay fears.

Cars held up to 60 passengers at a time, with a total capacity of 2,160. It took 20 minutes to complete two revolutions, stopping at six platforms to admit and unload passengers then making a nine-minute nonstop rotation. A guard was posted on each platform to signal the operator when it was safe to resume.

national ferris wheel day

The Ferris Wheel opened on June 21, 1893, carrying up to 38,000 passengers daily. A ticket cost 50¢. More than 1.4 million people rode it over the next 19 weeks. On clear days, it was possible to see the fairgrounds, the surrounding city and countryside of four neighboring states. Three thousand of Edison’s new lightbulbs mounted on the wheel made it a spectacle at night as well. The ride had a perfect safety record.

national ferris wheel day

After the fair closed, George Ferris became convinced he’d been cheated out of his share of the reported $750,000 profits the ride earned for exhibition management. His investors and suppliers pursued him for nonpayment. He was also sued by makers of similar “pleasure wheels” for patent infringement. He spent the next two years embroiled in litigation.

Although he eventually proved himself to be his ride’s rightful inventor, the efforts took an emotional and physical toll on him. In 1895, instead of selling the wheel to an amusement park like Coney Island, Ferris paid to have it dismantled and rebuilt in Chicago’s Lincoln Park, hoping to earn a profit from ticket sales. The venture was a failure.

In what would prove to be his last attempt to pay debts, he sold most of his interest in the business he’d built, G.W.G. Ferris & Company, to his partners. He died of typhoid fever on November 22, 1896, at the age of 37. After his death, it was revealed that he was bankrupt and his wife had left him the year before.

On June 3, 1903, the Chicago Tribune reported that the Ferris Wheel, with $400,000 in outstanding debts, had been sold at auction for $1,800 to a wrecking company called Old Truck, which took it down and reassembled it for the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis, Missouri. It’s estimated to have carried 2.5 million passengers from its inaugural day in 1893 through its last day of operation in 1904.

In 1906, with neighbors complaining about the eyesore that remained, the Ferris Wheel was reduced to rubble with dynamite. Demolition experts had to use twice the amount of TNT they thought would get the job done. The first 100 pounds brought down the wheel but didn’t destroy the foundation. Workers drilled holes into the concrete and dropped in 100 pounds’ worth of dynamite sticks. What was left was hauled away as scrap.

national ferris wheel day

national ferris wheel day

Perhaps what we should remember about Ferris are his contributions as an engineer to the modern usage of steel in building construction and the experience he gave to millions. As journalist Robert Graves reported in 1893, “It is an indescribable sensation, that of revolving through such a vast orbit in a bird cage.”

Happy National Ferris Wheel Day!

Copyright © 2017 Worldwide Weird Holidays