Discs of dried cow dung flew through the air at Wisconsin’s annual Cow Chip Throw in Prairie du Sac on Saturday, Sept. 2, as contestants young and old competed for the top prize.
“Some people are really grossed out by the idea of throwing cow chips, but some people take it really seriously,” said event organizer, Jeremy Pings.
The chips come from cows at a local farm, where they are laid out in the sun about a month in advance.
“They’re all pasture-fed, so it’s all grasses they eat, and they need that for the high fibre to make the thicker, denser chip,” explained Marietta Reuter, who has been on the festival committee for nearly three decades. “So those are the best chips, and we usually pick them up about a month before our festival, put them on a wagon. They go in a barn at night, come out in the sun during the day, and they get flipped periodically during the month to cure them and get them ready for our festival.”
The most durable chips are stored and reused, she added.
This year, the competition, now in its 43rd year, attracted contestants from around the United States and as far afield as the Netherlands and Portugal.
Bride-to-be Mandy Ma from Los Angeles even chose the attraction as part of her bachelorette festivities.
“We are actually here for Mandy’s bachelorette,” her friend Irene Yuen told Reuters. “She’s getting married in a couple months, so we decided to have a trip and she actually planned all of this. She did a lot of research on Wisconsin – we’re actually staying in Madison – so that and surrounding areas.”
“And she found out about this and we’re going to throw some cow chips.”
While she and her bridal party were not particularly successful at throwing the chips a long distance, they earned a lot of recognition for their creative, cow-themed outfits.
Contest rules stipulate that the cow chips must be at least six inches (15 cm) in diameter to qualify.
If a chip breaks mid-throw, the piece that flew farthest is the one that is counted. No gloves are allowed, but contestants may lick their fingers to get a better grip, according to the festival website. The state record is currently 248 feet (76 metres).