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Hot Times at the Garlic Festival

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I'm especially amazed at the extravaganzas that honor condiments and other refrigerator items that we typically ignore. And while some are industry-sponsored events that reek of product promotion, others are done purely out of gut-busting love. Here are a few of them:

1. Mustard: When the Boston Red Sox finally won the World Series, many feared it was a sign of the Apocalypse. Others worried that it would be doom for Wisconsin's National Mustard Museum.

Rabid Red Sox fan Barry Levenson only turned to mustard collecting after his team blew the 1986 October classic. With images of first baseman Bill Buckner's infamous grounder-through-the-legs error fresh in his head, he went to the market and stared despondently, entranced by the endless selection of condiments.

Amid the French's, Gulden's Spicy Brown and Poupon, the baseball gods spoke to him: "If you collect them, they will come." And he did.

Nearly two decades later, the Mount Horeb Mustard Museum has become the state's least likely tourist attraction, open seven days a week, with a six-person staff. Levenson gave up a legal career to curate a display that now includes more than 4,100 varieties of what most of us just slather on a hot dog and forget.

"We've got more types of mustard than Pete Rose has hits," he boasts. And while Mount Horeb, just outside Madison, has no local mustard industry, it's got plenty of bratwurst lovers.

This year, 3,000 attendees will muster up fun at the Aug. 6 Mount Horeb event. Oscar Mayer's Weinermobile will be on the grounds, dispersing free hot dogs, There will be a taste-off, cook-off, and, of course, mustard bowling, with plastic yellow squeeze bottles as pins.

It's no faux pas to ask to put alternative dressings on your dogs, but you'll have to pay. Ketchup is $10 a bottle, while the free mustard flows like wine. In fact, you should try the mustard wine.

After the Red Sox's World Series victory, ending 86 years of frustration, Levenson had to rethink his career change. "It gave pause to every Sox fan," he says. "I figured, after being world famous for putting Mustard Day on the calendar, what else can I do?"

Levenson has, however, also written a book on criminal law and food. For those who relish justice, it's called "Habeas Codfish."

2. Sauerkraut: You might think the Ohio Sauerkraut Festival is just an extension of Cincinnati's massive Oktoberfest. But a majority of the 2,800 residents of nearby Waynesville aren't German. They don't even grow much cabbage.