Pork, Peanut & Pine Festival
Surry, Virginia (July 21-22, 2012)
Slow down and smell the pine sap at this family-friendly festival held at Chippokes Plantation State Park in Surry, a county known for its lumber industry. Join local farmers for a celebration of agriculture that features tractor pulls, antique farm equipment, steam-engine displays and pony rides. And don't forget the pork and peanuts: you'll find pickled pigs' feet, chitterlings (pig intestines that have a texture similar to calamari), peanut butter cookies and sugar-coated peanuts!
Foods to Try: The peanut pie -- like a pecan pie but with peanuts -- is a treasured Surry county recipe, often varied with the addition of raisins or chocolate chips.
Admission fee: $5 for adults, free for children under 10
Get more info: Porkpeanutpinefestival.org
Gilroy Garlic Festival
Gilroy, California (July 27-29, 2012)
Follow your nose to Gilroy, home to hundreds of acres of heirloom garlic -- and, appropriately, this food festival. (No wonder it's called the garlic capital of the world.) Pungent cook-offs take center stage, but you can also dance to jazz, rock 'n' roll and swing. Or help the kids learn to make garlic braids.
Foods to try: How about garlic-spiked frogs' legs, ice cream, chocolate -- or just plain fried garlic?
Admission fee: $17 for adults, free for children under 6
Get more info: Gilroygarlicfestival.com
The Olathe Sweet Corn Festival
Olathe, Colorado (August 3-4, 2012)
Corny? A little. Fun? You betcha. Set in the fertile Uncompahgre Valley and surrounded by the Rocky Mountains, this celebration is the best-kept secret in Colorado. There are "Corny-lympics," a parade, live entertainment, a 5K -- and all the Olathe sweet corn you can eat.
Foods to try: Olathe's signature corn, grilled in the husk with butter, is by far the favorite food of festivalgoers. Best of all, the corn is free!
Admission fee: $20 for a two-day pass
Get more info: Olathesweetcornfest.com
National Lentil Festival
Pullman, Washington (August 17-18, 2012)
Pullman and its surrounding region produce a quarter of the country's lentils, and the city has been celebrating the legume since 1989. Lentils are the weekend's highlight -- think burritos and spring roll-like lumpia -- but athletic events abound, too. Sporty types compete in biking, hoops and skateboarding. Top it off with good music, a parade and a chili cook- off, and there are tons of reasons to celebrate!
Food to try: Mix clusters of sweet lentils into toffee ice cream and what do you get? Palouse crunch lentil ice cream, provided by Licks Unlimited in Pullman.
Get more info: lentilfest.com
Tales of the Cocktail
New Orleans, Louisiana (July 25-29, 2012)
Cocktails count as food, right? This event draws libation lovers from across the country to mix, shake, stir and muddle. Seminars take place in some of the Big Easy's most historic (and swankiest) hotels, and cover everything from aperitifs to beer-tails. Go on a cocktail tour or enjoy dinner with pairings like gumbo and malt whiskey.
Food to try: Festival co-founder Ann Tuennerman recommends going to Arnaud's for the shrimp Arnaud ($10), a chilled dish of shrimp in Rémoulade sauce. The restaurant's bar, French 75, is on the cocktail tour.
Get more info: talesofthecocktail.com