Testicle Festival

Several hundred visitors hung around Castell General Store enjoying a sack lunch at its annual Testicle Festival. The big store in the small town serves food and fun Tuesday through Sunday. Photos by Phil Houseal


May 22, 2019–I first came to the Texas Hill Country in 1978. Yet I’d never visited Castell. Last weekend, I fixed that. The Castell General Store–which is essentially Castell–was celebrating its Testicle Festival. As auspicious an event as any for finding out what a place is all about.

After the 50-mile trip north of Fredericksburg to the banks of the Llano River, I rounded the last corner and came up on the yellow-facaded establishment. A yard full of visitors were enjoying beverages, washer pitching, live music, and sack lunches of calf fries.

Marc Leifeste is one of the owners and manages the Castell General Store.

Marc Leifeste–one of three family owners–welcomed me and provided a bit of history while he sold raffle tickets for a rifle.

Castell is the only remaining one of three German settlements in the area. Early in the 20th century it was a thriving community, complete with cotton gin, appliance store, a two-story hotel, and full-time doctor. Like much of the country, Castell got racked by the depression and languished until the late 1990s, when Leifeste’s father retired to the area.

“We had a family ranch in the area, so dad came back about 25 years ago and started to sell real estate to have something to do in his retirement,” Leifeste said.

He also opened the Castell General Store. Ten years ago, they moved it to its current location. It was about that time that Leifeste the Younger was coaxed into moving back from “the big city” to manage it.

“Now it’s nothing like the old store,” he said. “We serve food here every day, with barbecue on Saturday. Sunday is Steak Day. You get a hand-cut choice ribeye, baked potato, corn, green beans, and salad.”

Another draw is the Llano River. They rent out kayaks, and fishing is popular, with regular restocking of trout each winter. And the town boasts 11 Bed & Breakfast lodgings, popular with visitors from Austin, San Antonio, and Dallas.

In addition to the Testicle Festival, the store hosts a Chili Cookoff, Gumbo Cookoff, and Goat and Rib Cookoff.

“We have that Luckenbach vibe from 40 years ago,” he said. “It’s very laid back.”

And they have Cockaroo, the local rooster that achieved YouTube fame for a disturbing relationship with Billy the Singing Bass. The boisterous bird is now stuffed and sitting in a place of honor above the small gift shop (“hey, we have to make a living somehow”).

But I was curious about the genesis of the Testicle Festival. You see, a long time ago, actually around 1978 come to think of it, I wrote a little ditty called Rocky Mountain Oysters. That is the euphemistic name given the main entrée of Castell’s festival, so I felt an obligation to look into it.

The original song actually had a role in starting a similar event. After I wrote the song in Iowa, Bill Smallwood heard it and added it to his repertoire. Back in Texas, a colorful character named Sam Lewis heard the BS Band play it, and decided to start a Rocky Mountain Oyster Cook-Off in San Angelo. Sam was a consummate promoter and fixture around Luckenbach. Among his creations were the Jalapeno Lollipop and Armadillo Racing. So you can see how a song about bovine accouterments would fit into his bag of tricks.

But Castell is building its own testicle tradition.

“It started about nine years ago as my dad’s idea,” Leifeste said. “Some local ranchers said let’s fry up some testicles.”

It was as simple as that. It’s grown ever since, with anywhere from 300 to 500 attending throughout the day, depending on the weather. Leifeste doesn’t really promote it beyond word of mouth.

Castell Post Office AND library.

“We’re trying to keep it in control, as the town doesn’t really have room for more people than that.”

Funds raised go to a scholarship fund, usually given to a high school senior in Mason or Llano. No word on how they announce that one on Awards Night.

If you want to enjoy the Testicle Festival, you’ll have to wait until the third Saturday of next May. But you don’t have to hang around that long to enjoy the ambiance and food at the Castell General Store.


Castell General Store is located at 19522 Ranch Road 152 in Castell.
T-Thu 8a–6p
F-Sa 8a–12a
Su 8a–6p
(325) 247-4100

Worldwide Wilderness

5/16/2019–I have embarrassed my ancestors. I am just coming off a week of roughing it and made a poor accounting of myself. The saga started while our team at SystemsGo headed off to launch rockets at Smith Point, Texas, a jut of land below Anahuac in Southeast Texas. We were bivouacked at small resort townContinue Reading

Put it on the list

5/8/2019–I am a lister. Not an “A Lister.” Just a “lister.” It is a habit I learned from my dad. He kept lists of chores that needed to be done around the farm. They would end up on the fridge or tacked to a small bulletin board at the kitchen door. You couldn’t leave theContinue Reading

A race for the rest of us

  May 1, 2019–Years ago I had the idea to create an athletic competition that required no athleticism whatsoever: Der Sitzenfest. Competitors would vie for prizes by sitting comfortably in their favorite chair, rocker, or recliner. It was all an idle (very idle) thought experiment, designed to amuse myself. But after learning about a newContinue Reading

Jimmy Webb: Singing His Songs

(Note: This is the second of two columns on my interview with Jimmie Webb. Read Jimmy Webb: Writing His Songs) April 24, 2019–A question I ask of all recording artists I have the honor of interviewing is whether it is the song or the singer that makes the hit. Jimmy Webb’s response echoed what IContinue Reading

Jimmy Webb: Writing His Songs

  April 17, 2019–Even after his six decades in the industry, being the only artist ever to receive Grammy Awards for music, lyrics and orchestration, being a member of every musical hall of fame on the planet, and writing so many hit songs no one has added them all up, music legend Jimmy Webb stillContinue Reading

All This Jazz

  April 10, 2019–When I was in high school the band director announced he was starting a jazz band. There were only 300 students in our entire school, so once you pulled out the football players and cheerleaders, there weren’t that many of us left to fill out the pep band, let alone start aContinue Reading

Laughing Out Loud

April 3, 2019–Recently I decided to take a walk on the ribald side and go to a big city comedy club. It was not the experience I expected. My motivation was to catch a comedy act that I stumbled across on the Internet. These guys post two-minute bits that hit me in the holy trinityContinue Reading

Pillow Perfect

  3/27/19–For years I have been on a quest for the perfect pillow. That’s one of those life essentials you didn’t know you needed until you become an adult. As a kid, you could fall asleep on the floor on top of a pile of coats, with a wadded up sweatshirt under your head. WhenContinue Reading

In Data Don’t Trust

Mar 20, 2019–I’ve come to believe one thing: Don’t believe anything. One recent chilly morning I was trying to determine just how chilly it was so I would have some ammunition to start my breakfast conversation. I happened to be driving past a Time & Temperature sign, and noted it was right at 32 degrees.Continue Reading