What do mud wrestlers, beer guzzlers, vanilla herbal tea connoisseurs and off-key karaoke singers have in common?
Perhaps nothing, except the 2006 Shilin International Cultural Festival.
The Taipei Shilin District Office has teamed up with the National Taiwan Science Education Center (NTSEC) and Garden Mall again this year to organize the festival, which will run to the end of this month.
In keeping with a six-year tradition, the annual festival caters to a dizzying array of unrelated categories of festival-goers.
Luckily, Shilin District officials insisted that the pony rides, tea-time, beer-drinking and belching contests will not be combined into a single event.
"Eleven events are scheduled, starting from [yesterday], including flower arranging and vanilla herbal-tea breaks at Garden Mall," a district official told the Taipei Times yesterday. The official declined to state her name, saying that she wasn't authorized to speak to the press.
She added that beer-drinking and mud-wrestling contests would be held on Oct. 21 in Tienmu Sports Park as part of the festival.
But just how international is the Shilin International Cultural Festival?
Yesterday's main attraction -- a 4-hour karaoke singing competition on the 10th floor of the district office -- was attended exclusively by middle-aged and elderly locals in their Sunday best and perhaps wasn't an ideal picture of international culture in Taiwan.
However, Chen Der-shin (陳德鑫), Chief District Secretary, said at the karaoke contest yesterday that the festival's global character would be more on display during the beer and mud-soaked revelry on Oct. 21.
"Contests in Tienmu on Oct. 21 are the main event, and that will be a very international celebration," Chen said, pointing at a poster of mud-caked Caucasians.
Chang Hao-wen (
"Shilin is unique in that we are home to the American, Japanese and European Schools, with over 8,000 foreigners living in this district. So, we wanted to have a festival that includes them," Chen said.
The district chief secretary also said that the autumn blossoming of Shilin's olive trees and the Double Ten holiday account for why the yearly festival is held in October.
For more information on the festival, call the Shilin District Office at (02) 2882-6200.