The Miniature World of the Holiday Train Show, in New York

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The New York Botanical Garden has put up a new  Holiday Train Show, which has been attracting several visitors. Held in the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, the show isn’t very far from the entrance to the garden. The display does feature some trains, but the real attractions are the models of famous buildings made entirely from plants.

The miniature trains weave around the lush plants and flowers, and replicas of the Empire State Building, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, TWA Terminal at JFK and a few other buildings that are made entirely of plant parts. What’s special about these models is that they aren’t exact replicas of the structures themselves. Rather, artists have tried to capture the defining characteristics of these buildings. Creator Paul Busse, along with his team of artists gathers the material from woodlands around their studio situated in Kentucky, making an effort not to disturb the natural environment. The 100% natural models are created from plant material, with acorn chimney tops and magnolia leaf roofs. The reproduction of Washington Irving’s home has pink orchids surrounding it, one of the branches wrapped like a vine around the entrance. Small plants and flowers are used to depict trees and bushes on a perfectly manicured front lawn.

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Finally, a Watching Paint Dry Championship

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Contests and competitions have been used for a very long time now as a marketing tool. Some of these competitions have been quite unusual. But it doesn’t get more unusual than this – a championship for paint-watchers!

The paint-watching championship is being organized by Localtraders.com, an online resource for finding reliable local tradespeople in the UK. Normally, the website works by having people submit details of a job they need done, and several tradespeople bid over the project. Now, they’ve come up with this innovative idea to attract new customers. The “Watching Paint Dry Championships”  is truly a test of patience, mental strength and physical endurance. The way it works is that interested participants should send in a photograph of themselves watching paint dry, along with the longest time they’ve stared at the wall of paint without looking away. They’re also asking for a short write-up about your favorite paint color and why you like it.

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Doglegs – Japanese Pro-Wrestling for the Disabled

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Physical disabilities have never stopped the resilient from pursuing their passion for sports. And wrestlers are not to be left behind. The Doglegs wrestling group founded in Japan gives the disabled an opportunity to fight, although it has been called a ‘freak show’ by some critics.

Unlike other sports for the disabled, Doglegs seems more oriented towards the entertainment value provided to audiences, rather than an actual skill or sportsmanship. Co-founder Yukinori Kitajima says that anyone can become a wrestler, provided they interest the spectators. For this, a special individuality is required out of each of them. ET, for instance, one of the popular wrestlers of the group, makes a scary face, which is his special attack. He suffers from cerebral palsy. The names adopted by the members of Doglegs are just as entertaining as their antics. Hard Rock, No Sympathy and Welfare Power are just a few of the wrestler’s names. No Sympathy, perhaps being the most apt of them all, since the fights are brutally real. It’s quite common that the wrestlers suffer injuries, spilling blood, splitting their eye, and more.

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Bossaball – Volleyball Meets Football on a Trampoline

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There is no dearth of bizarre sports in this world, new ones are probably being invented everyday. One of the latest additions to the series is Bossaball. Sounds like baseball? Well, it’s nothing like that. Bossaball is in fact, a cross between volleyball, football and Brazilian capoeira, and it’s played on a trampoline.

Bossaball is a sport fast gaining popularity on the beaches of Andalusia. The concept of the game was first developed between 2002 and 2004, by Filip Eyckmans, a Belgian living in Andalusia. It was first introduced in Belgium and then Netherlands, before it was brought to Spain. Bossaball consists of two teams of three to five people, who toss the ball across a net, similar to volleyball. However, the players are all on trampolines. This lets them jump at least 12 ft into the air, allowing them better access to spike the ball. The ball can be touched with any part of the body. You can even double-touch a ball with your hands or your head. Only one player of a team is allowed on the trampoline at once. The others play on the ground.

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Yukigassen – Competitive Snowball Fighting from Japan

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If you grew up in a place where it snowed, you probably would have mastered the art of throwing snowballs. Bet no one thought much of your talent back then. Too bad you never heard of Yukigassen, a snowball fighting competition that is held in Japan every year, and now in other parts of the world as well.

Yukigassen, literally meaning “snow battle”, originated around 20 years ago as a marketing scheme. The Mount Showa-Shinzan resort wanted to attract more tourists in the winter, so they devised this game, which certainly sounds like it could be a lot of fun. It is being described as a combination of chess, paintball and backyard brawling. The objective of the game is pretty simple. Players of the opposing team need to be knocked out with snowballs. But of course, there are more technicalities involved. For instance, the field on which Yukigassen is played is a 44 X 12 yard rectangle divided by red and blue lines, similar to the layout of a hockey rink. Three periods, three minutes in duration each, constitute the match. The team that wins two out of three is ultimately the winner of the match. A period could either be won by having more standing players than the team at the opposite end, or by capturing the other team’s flag without getting hit by their snowballs.

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Mauth Ka Kuan – India’s Well of Death

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Circus shows have been getting censored, simplified and overall less exciting just about everywhere. Not in India though, that’s the place where the infamous phrase “death defying stunt” lives on through Mauth Ka Kuan, or the Well of Death.

Though originally performed all over the world, riding a bike on a vertical wall can now only be seen live in the “Land of contrasts” and it makes visiting the place even more tempting. The stunt is old so you’d imagine India’s bike riders have honed and perfected it to the highest level. Actually, the Well of Death – as the arena is referred to – isn’t just a marketing ploy.Riding on incredibly old bikes that haven’t seen maintenance since they left the factory, the Indian bikers ride with absolutely no safety gear at break neck speeds. The walls on which they ride are vertical and built from salvaged wood.

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Japan’s Pig Rodeo – Animal Cruelty or Just Plain Fun?

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Although pigs aren’t exactly known for their speed and stamina, the people of Mikame, in Japan’s Ehime Prefecture seem to think they’re the perfect animals to ride.

Ehime Prefecture has been known as Japan’s pork production capital for a long time, and 25 years ago someone thought it would be a great idea to celebrate by riding hogs in a unique event known as Pig Rodeo. Part of the annual Seiyo City Mikame Summer Festival, the crazy event has been a popular tourist attraction, but to most of the western world it remained a mystery until 2009, when a YouTube video was picked up by a number of media outlets. There was a lot of controversy surrounding pig rodeo, at the time, and someone even started an online petition to get it banned, but in the last two years there were hardly any stories written on the subject.

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World’s Biggest Carved Pumpkin Is a Tribute to Zombies

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Life-size zombies crawling out of a 1,800-pound giant pumpkin? You have to face it, Halloween carved pumpkins don’t get a lot cooler than that.

A crowd of Halloween fans gathered at the New York Botanical Garden, the other day, to see pumpkin-carving master Ray Villafane work his magic on the world’s biggest pumpkin. Ray, an established artist known also for his incredible toy and sand sculptor, had something special in mind for this year’s event, and it’s safe to say zombie fans were pleased with his idea. He used two of the largest pumpkins from this year’s harvest, one of them a record-holder, to create a creepy scene featuring zombies covered in pumpkin guts crawling out of a giant squash. Ray spent hours painstakingly carving his undead work of art, but his efforts were generously rewarded with cheering and clapping.

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French Chocolatier Organizes Chocolate Boat Regatta

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Thousands of people gathered on the banks of the Odet River, in Quimper, western France, to see seven chocolate boats competing in the sweetest regatta ever.

Georges Larnicol first made headlines last year, when he managed to sail in a 1.2-tonne-heavy chocolate boat, in Concarneau port. Now the 56-year-old master chocolatier, who owns a dozen shops throughout western France, has taken his passion to a whole new level by creating seven functional chocolate boats and showing them off to the world during a race. All of the boats were made of melted unsold chocolate, measured two-meters-long and weighed around 450 kilograms, each. The boats only had room for one sailor, who had to use chocolate oars to steer it to the finish line.

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The Tipat War of Bali Is What I Call a Real Food Fight

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Every year the men of Kapal Village, in Bali, celebrate the rice harvest by throwing rice cakes at each other in one of the largest traditional food fights in the world.

Also known as the Aci Rah Pengangon ritual, the Tipat War is preceded by a collective prayer in the inner court of Kapal Village’s Pura Desa (the village temple). Here local men give thanks for the bountiful rice harvest and relax before the upcoming food massacre. After praying, dozens of bare-chested men start the first rice cake fight right in the middle of the temple courtyard. They are divided into two groups and throw tipat (cooked rice wrapped in a square shaped woven coconut leaf) at each other. This fight lasts for only five minutes and is a preliminary event to the full-scale war that is about to take place in the village street outside the temple.

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Savika – Wrestling Angry Bulls in Madagascar

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Savika is a rodeo-like sport practiced by men of the Betsileo ethnic group in Madagascar. It’s considered a rite of passage, and any man who dares dance with the angry zebus is considered a hero of the community.

No one remembers exactly when savika was invented, but everyone agrees it has been practiced by Betsileo men for centuries. The traditional sport is enjoyed by all members of the community, be they men or women, young or old, rich or poor, and is considered a unifying factor that brings everyone together. Savika is also a rite of passage for young boys who want to prove their manhood, and one of the best forms of courtship for single men. Apparently nothing impresses Betsileo women more than seeing their men dance with a zebu – a kind of domesticated cattle with long horns and a distinctive hump.

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World Egg Throwing Championships – An Egg-centric Competition

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One of the wackiest competitions in the world, the annual World Egg Throwing Championships held in Swaton, England feature a variety of events, all having to do with smashed eggs.

According to the World Egg Throwing Federation website, egg throwing is a local tradition inspired by historic events that occurred in the 14th century. It’s believed the ancient village of Swaton has stood on theses very grounds since before Roman times, but it wasn’t until 1322 that it became forever linked to egg throwing. The newly appointed Abbot was assigned to the Parish of Swaton  by royal decree, and found a rather ingenious way of increasing church attendance. As the only person in the settlement to own chickens, he provided one egg for each attendee to his sermons. But when the waters of the River Eau flooded, cutting off the church from the village, monks started throwing the eggs to the waiting locals. Legend has it when the gap became even wider, the monks used small trebuchets to make sure the eggs traveled the required distance.

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Latvia’s Wacky Milk Carton Boat Race

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Every year, at the end of August, Latvians celebrate Milk, Bread and Honey Festival with a special race between boats made from thousands of empty milk cartons.

The milk carton boat regatta has become a very popular tradition since it first took place nine years ago. The wacky event always take place on the Lielupe River, in the Latvian town of Jelgava, and means to offer local audience a good time and popularize a healthy lifestyle through the consumption of organic dairy foods made in Latvia. Teams of locals eager of a good time, as well as some representing dairy processors and food producers enter the competition every year and fight for various titles, including the fastest boat, funniest crew and most original boat.

This year a record number of participants registered milk carton boat race – 36 teams showed up on the Lielupe River, on August 27, to prove their seafaring skills. There were only a few rules teams had to obey for this event: boats had to be made excursively of empty milk cartons and had to be guided to the finish line by human power alone. The size of the boat and number of rowers was not limited, provided the carton vessel remained afloat. The course was only 50 meters long, the shortest so far, but teams struggled to finish as they had to paddle against a strong wind. Some team members even jumped into the river to push their boats across the finish.

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The Magnificent Floating Puppets of Les Plasticiens Volants

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Les Plasticiens Volants is a world-renown theater group that stages monumental performances using giant inflatable puppets, some over 20 meters long.

Ever since it was established, in 1976, the unique group has been entertaining audiences world-wide withe their amazing shows. From just two members, the group has grown to a company of 30 enthusiasts who create the puppets and masterfully operate them over the heads of the audience, telling a story. According to the members of the Les Plasticiens Volants, the advantage and at the same time the biggest challenge is building a marionette without a solid or fixed structure. They bend in the air and turn their heads in a way that makes them seem alive. But, as you can imagine, they are lot harder to control from the ground.

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A Dream on Two Wheels – Man Rides Bicycle from Shanghai to London

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Zheng Sheng, a 23-year-old college graduate from Shanghai, has fulfilled his dream of cycling across Eurasia, traveling 14,000 kilometers all the way to London.

When Zheng tried to convince sponsors to finance his daring dream, they all thought he was crazy, but he wasn’t about to let something as meaningless as money stand before him and his goal. With the help of his sister and a few friends, he managed to raise 13,000 yuan ($2,000), which he used to buy all the necessary gear for a bike ride from his home city of Shanghai to London. Before setting out on March 5, he posted on his microblog: “A journey 14,000 kilometers is the goal – here I go!”. He went though all kinds of challenges throughout the 136 days he spent cycling across 11 countries, but believe it or not, this ambitious young man reached his destination on July 18.

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