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American Festivals Project

In this country there's a festival for just about everything. Of course there's Mardi Gras, the Fourth of July and Bonnaroo. But there's also the Wooly Worm Festival, the Middle of Nowhere Celebration and the National Hobo Convention. For 14 months, photographers Ross McDermott and Andrew Owen, with the help of a National Geographic Young Explorer's Grant, have been traveling the country to find and document America's most obscure celebrations.

  • Okie Noodling competition in Pauls Valley, Okla.  As Andrew Owens writes, "they've got catfish the size of fifth graders sleeping in holes in the muddy river banks.  And what better way to pull one out than with your bare forearm? ... They call it noodling and consider it a tradition and way of life they are proud to carry on."
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    Okie Noodling competition in Pauls Valley, Okla. As Andrew Owens writes, "they've got catfish the size of fifth graders sleeping in holes in the muddy river banks. And what better way to pull one out than with your bare forearm? ... They call it noodling and consider it a tradition and way of life they are proud to carry on."
    Andrew Owen
  • Okie Noodling competition
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    Okie Noodling competition
    Andrew Owen
  • At a Cajun Mardi Gras celebration in rural Louisiana, festival-goers dance, drink, and parade through the countryside in traditional costumes collecting ingredients for a large gumbo.
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    At a Cajun Mardi Gras celebration in rural Louisiana, festival-goers dance, drink, and parade through the countryside in traditional costumes collecting ingredients for a large gumbo.
    Andrew Owen
  • Corn maze aerial
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    Corn maze aerial
    Ross McDermott
  • Lost Dutchman days rodeo in Apache Junction, Ariz.
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    Lost Dutchman days rodeo in Apache Junction, Ariz.
    Andrew Owen
  • Pine Ridge powwow in Pine Ridge, S.D., home to "one of the poorest Indian reservations in the country," as Ross McDermott writes.
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    Pine Ridge powwow in Pine Ridge, S.D., home to "one of the poorest Indian reservations in the country," as Ross McDermott writes.
    Andrew Owen
  • Rainbow gathering, Santa Fe National Forest, N.M.
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    Rainbow gathering, Santa Fe National Forest, N.M.
    Andrew Owen
  • Superstition Mountain in the distance at Lost Dutchman days rodeo in Apache Junction, Ariz.
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    Superstition Mountain in the distance at Lost Dutchman days rodeo in Apache Junction, Ariz.
    Ross McDermott
  • Knob Creek machine gun shootout in West Point, Ky.
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    Knob Creek machine gun shootout in West Point, Ky.
    Ross McDermott
  • "Indian Sunday" is a parade in the streets on the Sunday before the feast of St. Joseph during Lent in New Orleans.
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    "Indian Sunday" is a parade in the streets on the Sunday before the feast of St. Joseph during Lent in New Orleans.
    Ross McDermott
  • At the Idiotarod, a 5-mile shopping cart race through New York City, teams race in elaborate costumes, drink heavily, and do their best to sabotage the competition.
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    At the Idiotarod, a 5-mile shopping cart race through New York City, teams race in elaborate costumes, drink heavily, and do their best to sabotage the competition.
    Andrew Owen
  • A young cheerleader at the Xtreme Cheer and Dance championships in Wisconsin Dells, Wis.
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    A young cheerleader at the Xtreme Cheer and Dance championships in Wisconsin Dells, Wis.
    Andrew Owen
  • Middle of nowhere celebration
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    Middle of nowhere celebration
    Andrew Owen
  • Idiotarod
    Andrew Owen
  • Idiotarod
    Andrew Owen
  • 50th World Lumberjack championships in Hayward, Wis.
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    50th World Lumberjack championships in Hayward, Wis.
    Andrew Owen
  • Pine Ridge powwow
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    Pine Ridge powwow
    Andrew Owen
  • Halloween New Orleans
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    Halloween New Orleans
    Ross McDermott
  • The Angola prison rodeo in Angola, La., "provides a way for low- and medium-security inmates to get a break from their regular schedule and possibly earn some extra cash."
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    The Angola prison rodeo in Angola, La., "provides a way for low- and medium-security inmates to get a break from their regular schedule and possibly earn some extra cash."
    Ross McDermott

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This documentary undertaking, aptly titled The American Festivals Project, has taken Owen and McDermott literally all over the country. They've blogged the whole thing and put their photos on Flickr. I could write more... but you should really just check out their Web site.

Adelie penguins nest in colonies.

Ross McDermott and Andrew Owens of the American Festivals Project. hide caption

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For 14 months, photographers Ross McDermott and Andrew Owen have been traveling the country to find and document America's most obscure festivals.

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