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Calf Fry, the 2016 Testicle Festival rides again April 28-30

Tumbleweed Dancehall and Concert Arena hosts Calf Fry aka TheTesticle Festival each spring for the last 25 years Photo by Jerome Shaw for Travel Boldly
Tumbleweed Dancehall and Concert Arena hosts Calf Fry aka TheTesticle Festival each spring for the last 25 years
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Calf Fry, the 2016 Testicle Festival rides again April 28-30

Do you have the balls to attend this music festival?

Photo and story by Jerome Shaw

Sarah my beertender during Calf Fry aka TheTesticle Festival  Photo by Jerome Shaw for Travel Boldly
Sarah was my beertender during Calf Fry
Stillwater, Oklahoma is home to one of the more colorful music festivals in the country.  Though no longer officially called the Testicle Festival, that was the original, politically incorrect name and it is still widely known by this moniker. It is now simply called Calf Fry or more precisely Tumbleweed Calf Fry. Perhaps the festival, featuring the Red Dirt style music, which derives its name from the red colored soil of Oklahoma, simply out grew this more picturesque name. In 25 years Calf Fry has gone from modest little affair a few miles west of Stillwater to a major spring Music Festival destination with more than 30,000 in attendance for the 3-day event at the historic Tumbleweed Dance Hall and Concert Arena.

Calf Fry is more than just a music festival though.  It ramps up early at 5pm with several musicians filling the undercard. However, the opening acts have to compete with likes of goat roping, mechanical bull riding, trashcan basketball and of course fried calf balls and ice cold beer, Then there are the ever-present pretty young girls dressed in short bouncy skirts and cowboy boots or extremely short cutoff jeans and cowboy boots.

Calf fries may get top billing but Red Dirt  Music is what draws the crowds  Photo by Jerome Shaw for Travel Boldly
Calf fries may get top billing but Red Dirt 
Music is what draws the crowds
They've been frying calf testicles at the Calf Fry for 24 years. The calf testicle must be thinly filleted to create the correct thickness to cook properly after it is dipped in an egg batter and coated with flour admits that deep-fried calf testicles are not to every ones taste. They also serve hamburgers, hot dogs and are most well known for their BBQ brisket.

Growing up on a farm/ranch in Nebraska I was no stranger to such bucolic goings-on. I still recall my first cattle round up in Hayes Center, Nebraska. I was only about 5 years ofd but memory is burned as indelibly into memory as the Bar Lazy L brand into the calf's hindquarters. It was not castration that was so off-putting but rather the smell of burning cow hair and hide and the gory dehorning. But that is story for another time.

I tried the calf fries and found them palatable but not very flavorful. They have a pleasant texture, firm and not not too chewy. They taste mostly of batter and the oil they are cooked in. I prefer turkey fries in taste, texture and size. The places that I have turkey fries in seem to season them much more heartily than the beef fries at Calf Fry. I’d definitely recommend you give them a go when you get Stillwater and the Testicle Festival. Try them with some of the BBQ sauce and for your second course have a BBQ Brisket sandwich and wash it down with a margarita. 

The main stage during the 2015 Calf Fry Music Festival  Photo by Jerome Shaw for Travel Boldly
The main stage during the 2015 Calf Fry Music Festival
While calf testicles have top billing in festival title I think most of locals and those that travel from the far reaches of the country to attend this festival it is the music that commands their attention.  The origins of the Red Dirt Style of music are here in Central Oklahoma, specifically a few miles west of Stillwater which is about 70 miles Northeast of Oklahoma City, which is smack in the middle of the main body of Oklahoma. The geographic center of the Red Dirt movement is “The Farm”  the former home of Bob Childers, the grandfather of the Red Dirt movement. I was fortunate enough to get a personal tour of “The Farm” courtesy of Monica Taylor herself a Red Dirt devotee. We took a windy road outside of Stillwater and then turned onto a narrow dirt road though not noticeably red. Red Dirt music grew into a genre from a specific place and this was that place. It was like visiting Haight Ashbury or Liverpool.  An old two-story, five-bedroom house became know as ”The Farm" and was where this music movement began and flourish for over two decades.

A good time was had by all at Calf Fry  aka The Testicle Festivall  Photo by Jerome Shaw for Travel Boldly
A good time was had by all at Calf Fry 
aka The Testicle Festival
The house burned down in 2003 but the old weathered garage that was known as the Gypsy Cafe still stands resolutely marking this this place in music history.  Monica gave us an impromptu acoustic concert of her recent songs and some from the old days too. She first came here in ???? as a 18 year old hoping to make her way on the music scene. “The Farm” was an inclusive crash pad for wannabe musicians and welcomed her.  She shared many personal stories about her memories of the musicians that passed through here. It was a unique time and place in annals of Stillwater and Red Dirt music history.

But now it was time to head for Calf Fry and get the party started with Casey Donahew Band, Aaron Watson, The Dirty River Boys, Chance Anderson, The Hideouts, and Lower 40. After a few fried testicles, a bit of BBQ, a few tallboy beers and a couple of pathetic attempts at goat roping the sun set and the music began. 

Jerome was a guest of the Stillwater Convention and Visitor’s Bureau during his culinary and music adventures in Oklahoma.

At sunset the party is just getting started at The Testicle Festival Photo by Jerome Shaw for Travel Boldly
At sunset the party is just getting started at The Testicle Festival

If You Go Section:

Calf Fry 2016 is Thursday, April 28 through Saturday, April 30

Tickets can be purchased online at http://tumbleweedok.com/ 

The annual Tumbleweed Calf Fry, or "Testicle Festival," features a calf fry and live Red Dirt country music.  This unique outdoor music venue is celebrating its 25th anniversary in 2016. 


Cutoff jeans & short flouncy skirts are most  common attire for young women at Calf Fry Photo by Jerome Shaw for Travel Boldly
Cutoff jeans & short flouncy skirts are most
common attire for young women at Calf Fry
Calf Fry is for adults 18 years of age and older.

The Tumbleweed Dance Hall is recognized by County Music Weekly as one of the Top 10 Most Historic Country Music Sites in the United States. The 2016 edition of Calf Fry will celebrate 25 years of turning bulls into steers. 

Last year, the event dished up a record 3,000-plus pounds of calf fries to more than 30,000 attendees, and the it was recently estival’s culinary aspect was even featured on the Travel Channel.


Taking in the music at Calf Fry   Photo by Jerome Shaw for Travel Boldly
Taking in the music at Calf Fry
Get up close and personal with a VIP pass or party like a rockstar or rather a “countrymusicstar” and rent a 10 foot by 10 foot bullpen or party pen for yourself and your friends. You can stretch a day trip into a week-end getaway, by reserving an RV parking spot or bring camping equipment and stay in one of the 30 campsites available - reservations recommended.

Cowboy a Calf Fry aka The Testicle Festival  Photo by Jerome Shaw for Travel Boldly
Cowboy a Calf Fry aka The Testicle Festival

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