So we have all heard of states having a state bird, a state flag, a state flower, even a state gemstone. But since those declarations are left up to the individual state, the categories can be as obscure as any state will allow them to be. Here are some of the stranger ones:
19 states have declared milk as the official state beverage. How original. However, in addition to milk, Nebraska has Kool-Aid because the beverage was invented in its town of Hastings in 1927. Florida’s orange juice should come as no surprise, but what about Rhode Island’s coffee milk? Yeah - not coffee, not milk - coffee milk. It’s like chocolate milk, but instead of chocolate syrup, coffee-flavored syrup is used. We’re not sure if it originated in R.I. or not, but Rhode Islanders definitely have a special affinity for the drink. One of the major producers of coffee syrup is located in Rhode Island. Another quick fact: the drink was invented because back when diners were all the rage, owners were always introducing new drinks and dishes to try to differentiate themselves from the many competitors.
Oklahoma really went all out - they declared 11 “state menu items,” plus a state fruit and a state vegetable. In case you ever want to have yourself an official Oklahoma state buffet, here are the menu items: barbequed pork, chicken fried steak, sausage, biscuits and gravy, fried okra, squash, grits, corn, black-eyed peas, cornbread and pecan pie. Massachusetts and Pennsylvania both declared the chocolate chip cookie as the official state cookie, and the official state snack food of Utah is Jell-O. It is a popular stereotype that Mormons adore Jell-O. In fact the Mormon Corridor is sometimes even referred to as the “Jell-O Belt.” (Beginning in Utah, the corridor extends northward through western Wyoming and eastern Idaho to Yellowstone National Park and reaches south to San Bernardino, California on the west and through Mesa, Arizona on the east, extending to the Mexico border)
D.C.’s official state dinosaur and official state fossil is the Capitalsaurus. This dino was found in downtown D.C. in the late 1800's while ground was being excavated for sewer lines. However, despite the fact that it holds two official state categories, there’s a problem: the Capitalsaurus isn’t scientifically recognized, according to the Smithsonian. http://paleobiology.si.edu/dinosaurs/collection/nmnh_collections/speci men_c12.html. Because only a bit of vertebra was found, there’s not really enough to declare a whole new genus, which is what “Capitalsaurus” would be. But this hasn’t stopped the Capitalsaurus craze in D.C. - the street where it was discovered has even been renamed “Capitalsaurus Court” and January 28 marks Capitalsaurus Day.
Twenty-one states call the square dance their official state dance; some states get greedy and declare it the official folk dance and then claim other dances as well. South Carolina claims three dances - the square dance as its folk dance, the Richardson waltz as its waltz, and the Shag as… the Shag. As you might suspect, Hawaii has the Hula. New York has staked the Lindy Hop, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania both take the polka, and Texas has the Texas Two-Step.
Only a handful of states have declared official state theaters, and fittingly, one of them is California. I thought it was perhaps El Capitan, the theater on Hollywood Boulevard in L.A. It has been around since 1926 and Citizen Kane had its premiere there. But nope - the state theater is the Pasadena Playhouse. It’s nine years older than El Capitan. A theatre arts school was founded there in the late ’20s and it has definitely churned out its share of stars - in fact, the Playhouse is sometimes called “The Star Factory” in Hollywood circles. Notable graduates include Eve Arden, Charles Bronson, Raymond Burr, Gene Hackman, Dustin Hoffman, William Holden, George Reeves, Sally Struthers, Gloria Stuart and Robert Young.
State Renaissance Fair
Of all places, Alabama has declared a state Renaissance Fair. But it’s not as strange as it sounds - the city that plays host to it is Florence, Alabama, which is known as the Renaissance City. They also have an official outdoor drama - The Miracle Worker - and an official outdoor musical drama - The Incident at Looney’s Tavern.
Maybe it’s no surprise that Arizona has called the bolo tie their official state neckwear since 1971, but as of 2007, Texas and New Mexico do too. Although the bolo tie is said to be a pioneer creation, Arizona silversmith Victor Cedarstaff claimed that he invented the tie (he did patent the slide on the tie) in the late 40's.
Maryland has two official state sports - individual and team. They’re jousting and lacrosse, respectively. Alaska’s official state sport is dog mushing, which makes sense but is definitely unique to the state. South Dakota, Texas and Wyoming all call rodeo their state individual sport. Hawaii has surfing as their individual sport, of course, and outrigger canoeing as their team sport.
Some state dogs are named simply because they bear the name of the state. But I like the story of North Carolina’s Plott Hound. The story goes something like this: Johannes Plott of Germany (or possibly Bohemia) settled in present-day Cabarrus County, N.C., with a group of big-game hunting dogs he brought with him from Europe. They quickly became known for their courage and tenacity and would hunt big game - even bear - for days at a time. Johannes bred them, and so have his descendants ever since. Other states with official dogs: Texas (the Blue Lacy) and Wisconsin (the American water spaniel).
Other State Categories
Just a few other incredibly specific state insignia - Georgia has a State Peanut Monument (it’s in Ashburn on the west side of I-75, if you’re road tripping), Kentucky has an official state tug-o-war contest (it’s in Fordville), Massachusetts’ official Glee Club song is The Great State of Massachusetts, North Carolina’s state carnivorous plant is the Venus Flytrap, Ohio has an official state groundhog named Buckeye Chuck, Oregon has official state parents (mother: pioneer Tabitha Moffatt Brown, father: Dr. John McLoughlin who helped early settlement of the state).
Hat tip to neatorama.