Delton Mullenax dosen't like cotton candy, roller coasters or clowns.
In fact, he got so sick of commercialized summer attractions that his own festivities right at home in Hendricks, West Virginia.
Mullenax called his celebration the Hick Festival, and instead of having rides, refreshment stands and a bunch of clowns, he invited all his country friends out for an ox roast.
During the day they had woodchopping contests, chainsawing contests, axethrowing contests, tree-felling contests raccoon chases for coon dogs and a lot of good ol' down-home fiddlin' music. They even named a local girl Laurel Queen to reign over the affair.
"A hick is not a dumb person," Mullenax explains. "The old woodsman was called a hick. And it didn't mean he was dumb. He was not a dumb person." $ but he sure knew how to have fun.
This year, September 1 to 3, Mullenax and his buddies are having their 14th annual Hick Festival in much the same spirit.
"We'll never have a carnival," says Mullenax emphatically. "No rides. We don't want that. We just like to have fun the old-fashion way." But Mullenax is not the only one anymore. Last year nearly 7,000 others from all over the East Coast came out to join him. One year Senator Robert Byrd even brought out his fiddle and joined in the fun.
But if you can't join Delton and the Boys this summer, you needn't worry. There's always the Peanut Festival in Emporia, Virginia. Or the Waterfowl Festival in Easton, or the Flax-Scrutching Festival in Stahlstown, Pennsylvania.
No matter where you go, it seems, everyone is having some sort of festival these days. A recent search turned up almost 90 in the next three months that can be reached on half a tank of gas or less.
There are festivals for trees, turkeys, clams, crabs, country music, buckwheat, bean soup, Ukrainians, Germans, Poles, Irish, Greeks, Scots, and Dutch, for firemen, fish, foliage and the whole Chesapeake Bay. Some have been around for more than 50 years, while others grew out of Bicentennial celebrations. And some have sprung up for no other reason but to have a little good, old-fashioned fun. At most there are parades, wide varieties of food, music, dancing and often a beauty queen. But the highlight of each is its theme, whether it's fiddling, fruit or Frisbees.
In Crisfield, it's crabs.
During Crisfield's National Hard Crab Derby and Fair, August 31 to September 2, there are crab-picking contests, crab-cooking-contests (with such dishes as crab soup, crab spaghetti and crab pizza) and thousands of crabs to eat. But the main event of the Labor Day weekend extravaganza is the Crab Derby, held on Saturday in a 1,000- seat amphitheater called the Crab Bowl. For $3 anyone can rent a crab, name it and race it down a 16-foot plywood track for the Derby Cup
Each year there's also a special Governor's Cup race, in which the governor of each state is invited to enter a crab from his state in a race to determine which state has the fastest crab. Last year 22 governors entered, with Pennsylvania winning.
The race, however, is not always the greatest spectator sport. The crabs often sit unenthusiastically at the starting line and refuse to move.
"If they don't go," says Amy Ammerman, correspondent secretary for the National Hard Crab Derby Association, Inc., "they'll have someone beat on the track and shake it until one of the crabs slides down across the finish."
Perhaps a better spectator event is the duck- and goose-calling contest at the Waterfowl Festival in Easton, November 9 to 11. At 8 o'clock on Saturday night of festival week, all the calling contestants get up on the Talbot County Auditorium stage and try to immitate a variety of duck and goose calls while outdoor writers and editors from around the country judge their authenticity
"It gets quite complicated, because there are so many different calls ducks and geese have," says Bill Perry, president of the Waterfowl Conservation and Conservation Education Organization, which sponsors the event. "There's a feeding call and a mating call and all sorts of others.
"There's one man who's a member of the U.S Navy Band in Arlington, who won three times in a row, and he charts all his calls like you would a musical score."
Throughout Waterfowl Festival weekend there are also hundreds of displays of antique decoys and paintings and carvings of waterfowl that fill 12 buildings in downtown Easton. Exhibits are marked throughout town by a parade of white geese painted on the sidewalk.
But the place for true parade lovers to get their fill of drums and bugles is Urbanna, Virginia, during the Oyster Festival, November 2-3. The Oyster Fest parade, which runs through the center of Urbanna (population 475), starts at 2 on Saturday of festival week and usually dosen't finish until 5. There are military bands, high school bands, floats, clowns, hundreds of Norfolk Khedive Shriners comprising about 70 units and more than 50 fire departments and rescue squads from as far as 60 miles away.
The parade is so big and the town so small that the parade must assemble in a 1,000-acre field outside town. It then crosses a bridge going into town, travels down Main street and finishes in a parking lot outside town on the other end, where the marchers get into their buses to go home.
"When we have that parade, it gets so bad sometimes that there have been traffic backups seven miles long to get into town," says Bill Hight, chairman of the festival. "Main Street gets so crowded with people that the bands practically have to walk the yellow line."
Kingwood, West Virginia, (population 2,550) has solved its parade problem by having three different parades on three different days during their Buckwheat Festival, September 27 through 30: On Thursday there's the firemen's parade; Friday it's the school and community parade; and on Saturday it's the farmers' parade. Sunday is designated Senior Citizens' Day, but instead of a parade for the old folks, they give out awards to the oldest woman and man there.
Throughout the four days they also sell a special buckwheat pancake-and-sausage dinner for $3. Last year, organizers report, more than 13,000 dinners were sold.
Unlike most festivals, though, the Buckwheat Fest is not a multi-food extravaganza.
"We tried making various other things out of buckwheat," said Lucille Crogan, secretary of the festival. "But they never work out. Once we had some buckwheat bread, and that was a disaster. The only thing buckwheat's really good in is pancakes."
Because of that buckwheat isn't grown much around Kingwood anymore. But that hasn't altered the festival much. Queen Ceres and King Buckwheat are still chosen every year to reign over the affair. The queen is chosen for beauty and the king for scholastic achievement in agriculture studies.
"When this was started back in 1938, all the men would bring in their buckwheat that they grew to have it judged, and the winner would be king," Crogan said. "In fact, our first king and queen ended up getting married to each other."
At the Poultry Convention and Festival in Moorefield, West Virginia, which -- sadly -- was last weekend, the king and queen chosen to reign over the event are children, usually ages five to eight. On Monday night of festival week there's a kiddie parade, where all the town's children come dressed up as chickens or eggs or something else related to poultry. The two in the best costumes are crowned Mr. and Mrs. Wingding.
Sometimes, though, the dressing up presents a problem:
"We try to pick one boy and one girl," explained Larry Cosner, parade chairman for the festival. "But last year we had two boys. Once they're dressed up you don't know who they are, so it doesn't always work out right.
This year there was no such problem -- the judges solved it by ignoring the chicken motife and choosing a boy and a girl who came dressed as a bride and groom -- and even when there is a mixup, the broiler contest chicken and turkey barbecue contest and chicken dinners keep the thousands of visitors gobbling.
Food is a major attraction at most festivals. Some, such as the McClure (Pennsylvania) Bean Soup Festival, September 11 through 15, base their entire attraction on one or two entees.
The Bean Soup Fest, where thousands of gallons of bean soup are prepared in 35-gallon iron kettles stirred with wooden ladles, was started 90 years ago by a group of Civil War veterans apparently enamored of the broth. To go with it they also serve more than a ton of pork barbecued in an open pit. When it comes to food, though, it's hard to top Emporia, Virginia, home of the Peanut Festival, September 24-29.
In June the town had a Pork Festival in which 20 different varieties of pork were served -- all you can eat -- for $8.Registration was in advance by mail only, since the town of 4,900 couldn't hold more than 12,000 people. But the first day's mail reservations totaled 16,000, and the feast -- supposed to last only from 4 to 8 -- ended up running from noon to midnight.
The same kind of craziness is expected at the Peanut Festival, where approximately 15,000 jam the streets annually to munch on peanuts. There are a Miss Peanut Festival Pageant, a cocktail party and dinner offering such fare as peanut soup and peanut pie and a parade in which the people on floats toss peanuts to the kids. There is even a Peanut Festival celebrity grand marshal to lead the peanut partying.
Seafood seems to be a major theme for East Coast festivals, but few have as much as the Maryland Seafood Festival at Sunday Point State Park, September 7 through 9.
"Actually it started out as just a clam festival 12 years ago," says Dave Flickinger, chairman of the Maryland Seafood Festival Inc. "But the thing got so popular that we decided to add other things, too" -- including crabs, crab soup, crab cakes, oysters and clams served in a variety of ways.
"Last year we sold 960 dozen soft-shell crabs alone, and we could have sold 25 per- CAPTION: Picture, SOMETIMES YOU GET THE CRAB, AND. . .