It makes sense that the people of Collinsville, Illinois, would choose to celebrate horseradish. Besides respecting Collinsville's status as the Horseradish Capital of the World (it produces about 60 percent of the global supply), you've got to respect the crop. It's been heralded as an aphrodisiac, a treatment for upper respiratory tract problems and ailments in between. Acne? You betcha. Sinus issues? Bring it. It could even double as fodder for an old SNL sketch: "I'll give you a topic: horseradish. It's neither a horse nor a radish. Discuss." Armoracia rusticana is part of the mustard family -- infinitely cooler than other members like cabbage and turnips, and much easier to spread on bratwurst.
It'd be tough to work up that amount of enthusiasm for Worcestershire sauce or bay leaves. That's because horseradish and people of this region are kindred spirits, thriving on cold winters and long summers. And so the worthy root is the centerpiece of the seventeenth annual International Horseradish Festival at Woodland Park (just past Pine Lake Road and Vandalia Street, Collinsville, Illinois) on Saturday and Sunday (June 11 and 12; opens at 10:30 a.m. both days; free admission). The events include a recipe contest, a root derby (which could also be called Pimp My Horseradish), a root toss and booths galore. Young ones vie for the crown of Little Miss Horseradish, and adults compete to make the best bloody mary (via recipe card only; no on-site creation, please).
The festival has grown from its early days; exotic foods, an expanded kids' area and award-winning bands have replaced cloggers and baton-twirlers. Dawn Cordle, the chairwoman of the festival, estimates that 25,000 people came to last year's fest and says it grows each year. Even better, the money raised goes to civic organizations, a scholarship and right back to the park itself. For a complete list of contest rules, event times and locations, see www.horseradishfestival.com. -- Kristie McClanahan
If you're letting off steam by spinning brodies in the parking garage, jumping speed bumps or taking shortcuts through your neighbor's veggie garden, then you're ready for the pit. Fortunately for you, the Mid-Missouri Off Roaders' ninth annual Spring Marthasville (Missouri) Four-by-Four Mud Bog is back (yes, you will get dirty). The mud-bog racin' starts at noon, and registration goes from 8 to 11 a.m. -- which gives you plenty of time to transition your ride from a mall-parking-lot Bronco to a mud-pit Bronco (complete with paddle tires and roll bar, of course). Entry fee is $25 per class (ten offered), and admission ranges from $5 to $10. Check out www.mmor.com or call 636-629-7983 for directions and more information. -- Amy Helms
Thar She Blows!
The sixth annual Dubble Bubble National Bubble Blowing Contest is finally here, and it is not a day for celebrating mediocrity. Kids twelve and younger, who've no doubt been training since last year's competition, demonstrate their prowess in creating the largest bubble-gum bubble. Why? For glory, and the chance to move on to the national finals in August (where the prizes are thousands of dollars in savings bonds). The official Dubble Bubble Bubble Meter is used to certify bubble size and to ensure that the integrity of this prestigious event remains intact. To participate or spectate, be at Wal-Mart (1900 Maplewood Commons Drive, Maplewood; 314-781-2165) at 11 a.m. There's no cost to watch or participate. -- Jedidiah Ayres
Sandwich in the Sand
Long gone are the days of meals with prizes; you're too embarrassed (and health-conscious) to order a Happy Meal. But why shouldn't you be rewarded for finishing a feast? Eating is hard work, too! So eat at Steinberg Skating Rink in Forest Park (www.steinbergskatingrink.com). There, food is served on a souvenir Frisbee, and while you eat outside, you can watch the action on the three sand volleyball courts that replace the rink's ice in the summer. And after all that eating, you may as well show off your footvolley skills (beach volleyball with no hands, for you amateurs) and throw your empty "plate" around as well. Open play costs $3 per person or $15 per hour, reservations are encouraged (314-361-0613), and the courts open at 4 p.m. Monday through Friday and at noon on weekends. -- Alison Sieloff