Top 10 Wackiest State Insignia

Who’d have thought that each of the states in the US would have such a list of insignia?

Louisiana has a State Crustacean, the Louisiana Crawfish.  West Virginia’s State Fossil is Jefferson’s Ground Sloth. There’s an almost endless list of them…

I thought they limited themselves to a flower, a flag and a motto… and I always thought the wackiest of those was something like “Idaho – Land of the Potato”, as I was sure I spotted it on a license plate while on a road trip years ago.

Gem potatoes - Idaho here I come

Idaho's once proud boast

My memory is obviously faulty — Idaho used to go with the rather snappier “Famous Potatoes” and has now upgraded itself to “Great Potatoes. Tasty Destinations.” … Nice!

So I decided to have a look at the list of State Insignia and, forget the flag, flower, motto thing… here’s my top 10.

Hmm... boy or girl?

Hmm... boy or girl?

10. The Illinois State Pig – Illinois have adopted the Duroc as their State Pig. The modern Duroc originated around 1800 in New England and forms the basis of many mixed breed hogs. Duroc pigs are red, large-framed, medium length, and muscular, with partially drooping ears, and tend to be one of the most aggressive of all the swine. Nice.

9. The Maryland State Fossil – Battling off stiff competition from California (Sabre Toothed Cat) and South Dakota (Triceratops), Maryland sneak in with the delightful Murex Snail. The predatory Murex would sneak up on other, milder mannered, snails and leap on them before boring a hole in their shell and feeding on their insides with a toothed, ribbon-like tongue. Yum.

Vicious little bugger the Murex

The Murex. Skinhead of the Sands.

Their choice was not without some controversy as fossil expert Dr Eric Seifter testified before the Maryland Legislature that the classification of the Murex, Ecphora quadricostata was invalid (quadricostata is not actually found in Maryland) and needed to be changed to Ecphora gardnerae gardnerae. I wonder what would have happened if he had taken the fifth?

8. The Utah State Snack Food – In 2001, Utah State Governor Michael O. Leavitt declared Green Jell-O to be the State Snack Food of Utah and announced an annual Jell-O week. I imagine this was much to the annoyance of the inhabitants of LeRoy, New York which is still known as the home of Jell-O and is the site of the only Jell-O Museum in the world, located on their main road. Jell-O was manufactured in LeRoy until General Foods closed the plant in 1964 and relocated to Delaware.

Sadly the Utah Olympics bid never got off the ground

Sadly the Utah Olympics bid never got off the ground

LeRoy perhaps had failed to enrol a heavy weight celebrity endorsement from a Jell-O spokesman like Bill Cosby, whose appearance before the statae legislature helped seal Governor Leavitt’s bid for Jell-O supremacy and earned Cosby honorary Utah citizenship. I have no doubt that takes pride of place on his mantlepiece next to his Presidential Medal of Freedom (2002) and his Bob Hope Humanitarian Award (2003).

Should you wish to celebrate Utah’s Jell-O week at home, put aside the second week of February for the festivities. Or better still, book your flights to Salt Lake City… those mormons obviously know how to party!

7. The Kentucky State Instrument – Some states — and yeah, we’re looking at you Arkansas and Missouri — plumped for the safe, boring old fiddle as their state instrument. Not Kentucky. They went for the Appalachian Dulcimer.

Not to be confused with its biblical counterpart, the Hammered Dulcimer (heaven forbid), the Appalachian Dulcimer is a fretted instrument of the Zither family.

Can you play Stairway to Heaven mate?

Can you play Stairway to Heaven mate?

A number of excellent books have been published on the instrument, I particularly recommend Jean Ritchie’s The Dulcimer Book (1974) and, of course, In Search of the Wild Dulcimer (1974) by Robert Force and Al d’Ossché. And, should you wish to take up zithering on your Dulcimer, you can’t go past Lynn McSpadden’s Four and Twenty Songs for the Mountain Dulcimer.

To those of you who may scoff and think the Appalachian Dulcimer is old fashioned, try tuning in to the Dulcimerica Video Podcasts and rock out with the swingin’ Kentuckians.

6. The Kansas State Toy – Nights can be long and lonely in Kansas while you’re waiting for a tornado to whisk your house off to Oz, so what better way to while away the time than with the Kansas State Toy… the Etch-A-Sketch. Narrowly beating out the entry from Pennsylvania, the Slinky, the Etch-A-Sketch was invented in the late 1950s by The World's Smallest Etch A Sketch... gosh, thanks Santa.French electrician André Cassagnes. Quite why Kansas decided to elect it as their State Toy in 1960 is anyones guess, especially seeing as it was the Ohio Art Company who won the contract to manufacture it and they were based in Bryan, Ohio.

In 2003 the Toy Industry Association named Etch A Sketch to its Century of Toys List, a sort of Hall of Fame commemorating the 100 most memorable and most creative toys of the 20th century. The Ohio Art Company celebrated by moving their manufacturing plant to China.

5. The North and South Carolina State Dance – Yes, yes… I know. South Carolina has three State Dances. But loads of States have the Square Dance claimed as their own and the Richardson Waltz, while being a top dance (and voted South Carolina State Waltz in 2000) and also having a neat history (the waltz was passed down from generation to generation in the Richardson family from the mid-1700s) is still a fucking waltz and nothing like my favourite North and South Carolinan State Dance. That niche is reserved for The Shag.

The Carolina Shag has been an official State dance since 1984 and sounds a lot more complicated than it may seem at first. Here’s a brief round up so grab a partner and let’s Shag!

Carolina Shag is a six count partner dance done mostly to moderate tempo music (100-150 bpm). During the dance the upper body and hips hardly move as the legs do convoluted kicks and fancy footwork. The lead is the center of attention, and the follow’s steps either mirror the lead’s or mark time while the lead shows off with spins and other gyrations.

Not clear enough for you? Here’s some action from the 2004 Shag Nationals.

Dance historians say there is evidence to suggest that the term “shagger” was used to refer to vaudeville performers in the late 19th century, who were known to have danced the Flea Hop. Later “shag” became a blanket term that signified a broad range of jitterbugging. In the 1930s there were possibly a hundred or more variations of the dance.

Sadly it seems most of those have been lost to history and so, if you fancy a Shag, it’s North or South Carolina or bust.

4. The South Dakota State Bread – Perhaps you have shagged your night away and need a little nourishment. Perhaps you are driving through South Dakota and you feel a little peckish. Why don’t you pull over and try a slice or two of the South Dakota State Bread – Frybread?

What obesity epidemic?

What obesity epidemic?

Looks scrummy doesn’t it? And you’ll find it dished up at the State Fair and any Native American pow-wows you may find yourself invited to.

Frybread is a flat dough bread, leavened with yeast or baking powder, then deep-fried and topped with cheese, ground beef or beans. Sweetened versions are served with honey or powdered sugar. Named the official State Bread in 2005, Frybread has been estimated by the US Department of Agriculture to pack in 700 calories and a hefty 27 grams of fat.

Frybread – Breakfast of Champions.

3. The Louisiana State Meat Pie – Not to be outdone on the lard-o-meter by the South Dakotans, the Louisiana State Legislature decided to dub the Natchitoches Meat Pie, the Louisiana State Meat Pie in 2003.

The recipe has evolved over the last 300 years but modern pies generally contain ground beef, ground pork, onions, peppers and garlic served in a crescent-shaped, flaky wheat pastry turnover. It wouldn’t be a proper pie if it wasn’t deep-fried of course and so the pockets of meaty deliciousness are lowered into hot peanut oil until golden brown.


Who ate all the pies?

Who ate all the pies?

Inspired no doubt by the Jell-O week festivities in Utah, the town of Natchitoches holds an annual Meat Pie festival and boasts attractions such as live music, meat pie eating contests for children and adults, best meat pie tasting contest, meat pie making demonstration and a “womanless” beauty pageant. According to festival organisers, Oprah Winfrey refers to Natchitoches as “the best little town in the whole USA” which may explain her continual weight battles.

Sadly for those thinking of booking tickets, the Natchitoches Meat Pie Festival was held only a couple of weeks ago… but that gives you a whole year to practise your pie eating for next year.

2. The Alabama State Drink – No less than 19 States show a distinct lack of imagination and list Milk as their State drink. Not so Alabama, who thumbed their noses at their more straight laced neighbours and designated Conecuh Ridge Whiskey as their official State Spirit.

This is why Santa delivers to Alabama last

There's a reason Santa delivers to Alabama last

This isn’t any old whisky either, Conecuh Ridge is a recreation of the aged “moonshine” whiskey produced illegally by Clyde May, a legendary Alabama bootlegger. Clyde produced 300 gallons a week from his still hidden in woods near his house. Eventually busted, he served an 18 month sentence at Maxwell Air Force Base in 1973, only to be replaced by the man who convicted him, Attorney General John N. Mitchell who had just gone down in the Watergate Scandal of 1974.

Conecuh Ridge is described as an “Alabama Style Tippling Whiskey”, is aged in oak casks (possibly hidden in woods) for four years and is light bodied but 90-proof. Needless to say, should a spare bottle or two of the Alabama State Drink be lying around any readers house, we at the Notes would be only too happy to receive a sample.

Miss Maryland 2007 and her epic blunder as she "tried to modernise jousting". She now lives in a goldmine with seven height challenged miners.

Miss Maryland 2007 and her epic blunder as she "tried to modernise jousting". She now lives in a goldmine with seven height-challenged miners.

1. The Maryland State Sport – I suspect the people of Maryland want to feel a little different from all the other States. They’d already nabbed number 9 on our list with their deadly snail/mollusc killer, the Murex. Perhaps their choice of Official State Sport also has something to do with the fact that Maryland residents currently have the largest disposable income of any in the US. Perhaps they all live in castles because the Maryland State Sport is… jousting!!!

Yeah, you heard it, Have at ye varlet, gadzooks and all that. There’s nothing a Marylander likes better on a weekend than to strap on their cuirass, don their gauntlets and rattle down the lists on their mighty steed. And this isn’t some modern fancy inspired by A Knight’s Tale either… it’s been the State Sport since 1962! It was also the first State to actually think of adopting an official sport so hats helms off to the citizens of Maryland for thinking outside the castle keep on that one.

They don’t pussyfoot around with their State Motto either Fatti maschii, parole femine – Manly Deeds, Womanly Words, although quite what they mean by that is anyones guess. The State Cat is the Calico Cat (a sort of dappled tabby) and the State Song is Maryland, My Maryland, sung to the tune of that hideous dirge O Tannenbaum.

So there you have it…you can eat Jell-o in Utah, get sozzled on moonshine in Alabama and shag all you like in the Carolinas but, give me the choice and a flagon of mead in my hand, it’s Maryland all the way.

Just remember to make sure to get out before they start singing and don’t trip over the cat on the way out.

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2 Responses

  1. With respect to #10 above, I have it on good authority that Dr Throttling has slept with a couple of pigs from Illinois, but am not certain if they were state pigs.

  2. […] Posted on January 21, 2010 by DrThrottling Back in October last year we took a look at the Top Ten Wackiest State Insignia list and pronounced Maryland the winner for having declared Jousting the State Sport back in 1962. […]

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