The Strangest Official State Designations in America

States adopt official designations to promote tourism and offer insight into historical significance or boast about popular commodities. For instance, Maine’s official state animal is the moose — an animal that’s common in the Northeast. Texas’ official state flower is the bluebonnet since the purple wildflowers bloom across the hill country every spring. Other states, however, make some questionable choices when it comes to official state designations. Here are some of the strangest state designations in America.

Official Question of New Mexico

Iconic red dirt and rocky landscape of the New Mexico wilderness under blue skies
Credit: Dean Fikar/ Shutterstock

New Mexico is the only state in the U.S. with an official state question and it has to do with an appreciation for hot peppers. The official state question of New Mexico is “Red or Green?” The question was adopted in 1996 to recognize the importance — both historically and monetarily — of both red and green chili industries in the state.

Official Snack of Utah

Up close view of red gelatin dessert served in a white ramekin
Credit: Ildi Papp/ Shutterstock

Most state designations are very specific — sometimes oddly specific — but the people of Utah don’t care about the product as much as they do the brand. Jell-O is the official state snack in Utah. It doesn’t matter what flavor, product, or recipe. As long as it’s made by the Jell-O brand, it counts.

Official Dessert of Missouri

Row of ice cream cones of varying flavors lined up in a cone holder
Credit: Elena Veselova/ Shutterstock

In 1904, the ice cream cone was unveiled at the World’s Fair in St. Louis. Of course, the popular frozen dessert has since grown in popularity in every state, but Missouri still remembers that historic event and takes ownership of its momentous debut. In 2008, the ice cream cone was made the official state dessert of Missouri.

Official Sport of Maryland

Jousting re-enactment with rider lancing a metal ring on horseback
Credit: Michael Warwick/ Shutterstock

While Maryland might be famous for its lacrosse teams, the official state sport is actually jousting. Jousting tournaments have taken place in Maryland since early colonial times and in 1962, Maryland was the first state to adopt an official sport.

Unfortunately, jousting no longer means two armored knights riding at each other with lances drawn. Instead, it’s a ring collecting challenge. Riders gallop toward a series of suspended rings. They have to use their lances to spear the rings at full speed. The rider to collect the most rings over a series of passes wins.

Official Bread of South Dakota

Up close view of Indian fry bread Navajo tacos, with toppings placed atop cooked bread
Credit: Brent Hofacker/ Shutterstock

South Dakota is a state rich in Native American history. While having an official state bread might seem superfluous, South Dakotans chose fry bread to express their cultural heritage. Fry bread is a Native American recipe of deep-fried dough topped with either sweet treats like honey and sugar or more meal-worthy toppings like ground beef and beans. It’s also called a Navajo taco.

Official Dirt of Illinois

Up close view of person's hands holding a pile of brown dirt
Credit: Stacey Newman/ Shutterstock

Yes, some states even have an official state dirt. Surprisingly, it’s relatively common. Every state has selected a state soil and 20 states have made it official. The official state dirt of Illinois is called drummer — a silty clay loam.

Official Soft Drink of Nebraska

Up close view of a red beverage being poured into a clear glass
Credit: Lisa Holder/ Shutterstock

Most states have an official state beverage, but Nebraska takes it one step further with an official state soft drink. The official state beverage of Nebraska is milk to acknowledge the importance of the dairy industry, but the official state soft drink is Kool-Aid. Kool-Aid was originally invented in Hastings, Nebraska in 1927 before it was bought by the Kraft Foods Company.

Official Flavor of Vermont

Jar of maple syrup placed on a rustic wooden table
Credit: showcake/ Shutterstock

Vermont is proud of its famous maple syrup. In 1993, Vermont declared maple as its official state flavor — making it the only state in the U.S. with an official flavor. The sugar maple is also Vermont’s official state tree.

Official Exercise of Maryland

Walking path in park in Baltimore, Maryland with fall colored leaves on trees
Credit: Jon Bilous/ Shutterstock

From a state with such an interesting state sport (jousting), you’d expect an equally interesting state exercise. The official state exercise of Maryland is about as basic as it can get — walking. Maryland and Missouri are the only two states in the U.S. with official state exercises. Missouri’s official state exercise is jumping jacks.

Official Bird of Madison, Wisconsin

Up close view of flock of pink flamingos adorning a person's lawn
Credit: Barb Elkin/ Shutterstock

Although Madison, Wisconsin is a city and not a state, its official state bird is too strange to be left off this list. Since 2009, the official bird of the city of Madison is the pink plastic flamingo. The decision was based on a 1979 prank when a group of students covered the mall of the University of Wisconsin-Madison with over 1,000 plastic flamingos — a tradition that continues every year at the annual Fill the Hill event.

Share this article:

More from the Blog

Related article image

What (and Where) Is the Arctic Circle?

Related article image

The 5 Newest States (Besides Alaska and Hawaii)

Related article image

What (and Where) Is Death Valley?