MidwestWeekends.com — Your Travel Guide to the Upper Midwest

5 festivals that are out of this world

You'll have a cosmic good time celebrating things that came from outer space.

A Superman contest in Metropolis.

© Metropolis tourism

In 2013, Metropolis tried to set the world record for largest gathering of people dressed as Superman.

We've got plenty of real heroes to celebrate in the Upper Midwest.

There are festivals honoring writers Sinclair Lewis and Laura Ingalls Wilder and musicians Bix Beiderbecke and Bob Dylan. From fiction, we celebrate Heidi, Paul Bunyan and William Tell.

But in some towns, an earthbound festival just doesn't cut it.

Below are five places that look to outer space for a reason to celebrate, plus two eerie mystery spots and a flying saucer you can stay in.

Here are their festivals in 2017.

June 8-11, Superman Celebration in Metropolis, Ill. This southern Illinois town on the Ohio River calls itself Superman's hometown.

Everything in it is super  the Super Museum, crammed with thousands of toys, props, posters and costumes; Superman Square, with a 12-foot statue of the Man of Steel; the town's newspaper, The Planet; and especially the annual Superman Celebration.

The packed schedule includes trivia contests, arm-wrestling, a live radio show, an illusionist, a superdog show, a heroes and villains costume contest, an '80s dance party and a Parade of Characters at 1:30 p.m. Sunday.

Superman himself will make many appearances, along with comic-book artists and writers and movie and TV-show actors, including Peter Facinelli and Mehcad Brooks of "Supergirl.''

June 23-24, Trekfest in Riverside, Iowa. This village just south of Iowa City calls itself the "future birthplace" of Capt. James T. Kirk of "Star Trek.''

There's a Trek trivia contest, Federation games (open to all ages and species), a costume contest, sky-watching, music from Tom and the Tribbles, a Saturday parade and fireworks.

There will also be a kids' tractor pull, tug of war and a demolition derby.

July 29-30, UFO Days in Elmwood, Wis. In 1975 and 1976, dozens of people, including a local police officer, reported seeing mysterious lights and flying objects near a rock quarry in this village, an hour east of the Twin Cities.

An alien family at Sputnikfest

© Rahr West Museum

A family shows up for the costume contest at Sputnikfest.

Now the town calls itself UFO Capital of Wisconsin (or the world, depending on who's talking). At the annual festival, there's food, beer and a parade at 2 p.m. Sunday.

Sept. 8-9, Sputnikfest in Manitowoc, Wis. In 1962, a piece of the satellite Sputnik 4 landed in front of the Rahr-West Art Museum on North Eighth Street.

This port town on Lake Michigan celebrates with a Ms. Space Debris pageant, alien pet and costume contests, magic and build-your-own Sputniks.

There will also be a raffle drop of numbered alien erasers over the brass ring that marks the spot where the space debris landed (the closest eraser wins $1,000).

Oct. 28, UFO Day in Belleville, Wis. The 1:30 p.m. parade is the main event in this riverside village just south of Madison, where residents reported more than a dozen UFO sightings in the winter of 1987.

Mystery spots

Gravity Hill near Shullsburg, Wis. Just outside this cheese and lead-mining town in the southwest tip of Wisconsin, a hill appears to violate the laws of gravity.

From downtown, drive south on Judgment Street, which turns into County Road U, about two miles to Gravity Hill. Just before the yellow 25 mph sign, put your car into neutral and see if your car starts rolling up the hill. 

For more about this old lead-mining area , see Road trip: Southwest Wisconsin.

Watersmeet Mystery Lights near Watersmeet, Mich. Five miles north of Watersmeet, on U.S. 45 just across the border from Land O' Lakes, Wis., many people have reported seeing bobbing lights on clear nights.

Students at Michigan Tech have debunked ghost stories and legends about the lights, also called the Paulding Lights for a nearby village. They say it's just car lights . . . but many people say that's just a theory, too.


Last updated on May 17, 2017