In Castell, the month of May brings the biggest party of the year: The annual Testicle Festival. On May 20, hundreds of visitors and Llano County locals will descend on the small riverside Castell community for a full day of music, drinks, fun, and food.
What started as a small get-together based on the Western tradition of frying up freshly snipped bull balls has grown into a full-blown celebration that gets bigger every year. Travel about 20 miles north of Llano to 9522 RR 152 West, and you will find the iconic venue of the festival, the Castell General Store.
Castell was once a ghost town with only eight official residents. It was revitalized by the enigmatic owner of the general store, Randy Leifeste. The Testicle Festival and countless other Castell-based events are Leifeste’s brainchildren and aimed at putting Castell on the map. It’s a strategy that is definitely working.
This is the 12th year of the Testicle Festival, and it will likely be the largest. The first year it was held, Leifeste estimates about 40 people showed up. They cooked around 40 pounds of “calf fries” for their guests and had a pretty good time. In its 11th year in May 2022, an estimated 700 visitors turned up and the general store pumped out 350 pounds of calf fries and over 1,000 pounds of crawfish.
Live music, drinks, vendors, washer tournaments, raffles, and more have become hallmarks of the festival, which is expected to run all day Saturday, May 20.
Leifeste dreamed up the idea for a “testicle festival” when a cowboy from Montana was passing through Castell and shared stories about cooking calf fries on the range and the huge parties they’d throw in small towns. He ran with the idea in Castell and it was a hit.
Calf fries, Rocky Mountain oysters, prairie oysters, and cowboy caviar are all names given to the western delicacy of fried bull testicles. While it might seem strange, these are a huge part of cowboy culture in western states like Montana, Wyoming, and Colorado. Texas has deep ranching roots, so it only makes sense the tradition would be a hit right here in the Hill Country.
If you’re tentative about trying calf fries, no need to worry. The Testicle Festival is more about hanging out by the river, enjoying the music, and taking in the beauty of Llano County than anything else. You’ll find plenty of other good things to eat.