Wisconsin State Cow Chip Throw

On the Friday and Saturday before Labor Day, a festival known as the Wisconsin State Cow Chip Throw takes place in Sauk City/Prairie du Sac, Wisconsin. It’s estimated that 40,000 people attend each year. The current record for a throw is 248 feet. Perhaps a little background is in order.wisconsin state cow chip throw

The pioneers who settled the Plains in the 1800s faced cold winters with little water and timber. Hunters had discovered that dried buffalo dung patties, or chips, could be burned for fuel. They were odorless and burned with intense heat and no soot.

The buffalo were all but gone by that time, hunted out of existence, so settlers gathered cow chips and stored them for winter when they would rely on them to warm their homes and keep their cooking fires burning. The chips were so valuable that they were often used to barter for food and other provisions.

In 1970, organizers of the Cimarron Territory Celebration in Beaver, Oklahoma, trademarked the “World Championship Cow Chip Throw,” requiring other towns wishing to host an “official” throw to certify their events with the Beaver Chamber of Commerce. (So far, it has authorized throws in South Dakota and Illinois, as well as Wisconsin.)

In 1975, the Sauk Prairie Jaycees declared the Sauk Prairie area as the Cow Chip Capital of Wisconsin and, with Beaver’s blessings, organized the first Wisconsin State Cow Chip Throw. In 1989, the Wisconsin State Legislature proclaimed the cow chip the Unofficial State Muffin.

wisconsin state cow chip throw

According to the Wisconsin State Cow Chip Throw Committee, the following rules apply to today’s Corporate Throw and tomorrow’s Men’s and Women’s Throws. In the event of a dispute, the Chip Judge has the final say.

  1. Each contestant must choose two chips from the wagon-load provided by the official Meadow Muffin Committee.
  2. Chips shall be at least 6 inches in diameter.
  3. Of the two chips, the one thrown the farthest shall count.
  4. If a chip breaks up during the throw or while in the air, the piece that travels the greatest distance will be scored.
  5. Any attempt to alter the shape of a chip—except in rare instances when a loose fragment may be removed, provided the removal does not render the chip less than 6 inches in diameter—will result in a 25-foot penalty. The decision of the Chip Judge will be final.
  6. While no gloves may be worn while throwing, licking your hands is allowed to get a better grip.

That last one is optional, folks.

Copyright © 2017 Worldwide Weird Holidays

August 30 is Hellespont Swim Day

hellespont swim dayToday is Hellespont Swim Day, when participants will follow the path swum in 1810 by Lord Byron, an English poet and a leader in the Romantic movement.

Byron chose the course in honor of the Greek myth of lovers Leander and Hero. Hero, a priestess of Aphrodite, lived in a tower in Sestos (the present-day town of Yolikabot in Turkey), on the European shore of the strait of Hellespont (now known as Dardanelles).

Leander, who lived in Abydos (now the Turkish village of Nara) on the opposite shore, met Hero at a festival and quickly convinced her that the virginity her parents so closely guarded would not please Aphrodite, the goddess of love.

Hero knew her parents would never allow her to marry an outsider. When Leander vowed he would swim across the Hellespont every night if she would have him, she agreed to hang a lantern in the tower to guide him.

They were happy until one stormy night when Leander’s ardor overcame his judgment and he tried to swim to her through tempestuous waters. When high winds blew out Hero’s lantern, he lost his way and drowned. When she saw his body wash ashore the next morning, she threw herself from the tower to her death.

In reality, as in myth, the swim is a perilous one. The strait is anywhere from 3/4 to 4 miles wide; water flows from the Sea of Marmara to the Aegean Sea via a surface current and in the opposite direction via an undercurrent. This creates dangerous conditions for ships, let alone swimmers.

When Lord Byron went into the water, the swim was considered too dangerous to attempt. He was the first person known to accomplish it. He later wrote, in The Bride of Abydos:

The winds are high on Helle’s wave,
As on that night of stormy water
When Love, who sent, forgot to save
The young—the beautiful—the brave—
The lonely hope of Sestos’ daughter.
Oh! when alone along the sky
Her turret-torch was blazing high,
Though rising gale, and breaking foam,
And shrieking sea-birds warned him home;
And clouds aloft and tides below,
With signs and sounds, forbade to go,
He could not see, he would not hear,
Or sound or sign foreboding fear;
His eye but saw that light of Love,
The only star it hailed above;
His ear but rang with Hero’s song,
“Ye waves, divide not lovers long!”—
That tale is old, but Love anew
May nerve young hearts to prove as true.

Although others have since achieved the feat, it remains a test of strength and endurance. In 2000, Simon Murie decided to celebrate his birthday by tracing Byron’s route. The days of effort it took to acquire permission gave him the idea to create a service for intrepid swimmers like himself. Since 2003, Murie’s SwimTrek has organized swims at 40 locations around the globe. 

Today, the world’s most concentrated shipping lane closes during the swim inspired by ancient myth and English poetry. Participants can race or just enjoy the course, which follows an ellipse to compensate for the current. Today’s date coincides with Turkey’s Victory Day which commemorates its victory in the War of Independence on August 30, 1922.

Happy Hellespont Swim Day!

Copyright © 2017 Worldwide Weird Holidays

June 21 is Go Skateboarding Day

go skateboarding day

Rebellion, trademarked.

Today is Go Skateboarding Day, created in 2004 by the International Association of Skateboard Companies (IASC). We’d like to let the founders describe their motives.

According to the IASC site, “The holiday began June 21, 2004, as an excuse for skateboarders to make skateboarding their top priority.”

It goes on to describe the day in a way that sounds a bit less selfless:

Go Skateboarding Day is a cooperative of decentralized events that take place around the globe. Skateboard retailers, manufacturers, skateparks, distributors, organizations and individuals of all colors, creeds, and attitudes hold skateboarding events to celebrate the holiday.

Lest we despair that the S in skateboarding stands for $, that cynical capitalists aim to exploit young consumers, the IASC explains the day’s focus:

Go Skateboarding Day originated as the day for skateboarders to have fun, to raise awareness about the issues we face; to show the world what skateboarding is really all about; to reclaim our culture; and to define skateboarding as the rebellious, creative celebration of independence it continues to be.

What could be a more rebellious, creative celebration of independence than a corporate-sponsored holiday?

In the years since that first celebration, the holiday continues to grow, but the mission remains the same: Have fun, go skateboarding!

We would add only one thing: Have fun, go skateboarding and buy stuff!

Copyright © 2017 Worldwide Weird Holidays

June 16 is Ladies’ Day

ladies' day

It’s a good thing they changed the logo.

Today is Ladies’ Day, devised to attract more women to baseball games and convert them to fans.

The New York Gothams’ management held the first Ladies’ Day on Tuesday, June 16, 1883, at the Polo Grounds in Manhattan. All women, both escorted and unescorted, were admitted free. The Gothams beat the Cleveland Spiders 5-2 that day. (The team later changed its name to the New York Giants.)

Ladies’ Day proved so popular, it was made a weekly tradition by many ball clubs. More women began to fill the grandstands and over time, baseball games became more of a family affair.

Happy Ladies’ Day to one and all!

Copyright © 2017 Worldwide Weird Holidays