For thousands of people, the night before Thanksgiving wouldn’t be complete without a bite of turkey testicle.
That goes for those from the McHenry County area and beyond – way beyond.
“Last year, we had people come from Australia and Germany,” said J.R. Westberg, who co-owns Parkside Pub in Huntley, known for the past 34 years for its annual pre-Thanksgiving Turkey Testicle Festival.
“Within the United States, I’ve heard of people coming from as far as California, Arizona, Texas, Florida and New York.”
For those who haven’t tried or even heard of turkey testicles, they’re exactly what they sound like – turkey testicles battered, fried and served up. This year, Parkside will cook 1,200 pounds of them to feed an expected 5,200 people.
Generations of families now enjoy them together, out of tradition, Westberg said. Though most say the taste isn’t bad either.
“For me, it has its own unique flavor,” Westberg said. “Some of it might be mental for me. I’ve heard from several people they taste like stuffed mushrooms or chicken gizzards. It ranges in flavor and texture.”
The pub’s doors will open at 11 a.m. Nov. 23, with crowds expected to line up beforehand and bus routes available at about 3 p.m. (visit www.parksidepubhuntley.com/ttf/ for route information). The festival at 11721 Main St. in Huntley will include a heated tent and live music from 7th Heaven at 1 p.m., Modern Day Romeos at 5 p.m. and Boy Band Review headlining from 9 p.m. until midnight. Admission is $10 a person, with VIP passes available online for $60 a person.
The passes include font-of-the-line entry, a commemorative long-sleeve shirt, a designated area, private restrooms, designated bartenders, a sample cup of four to six nuts and a swag bag.
Along with Parkside, Clasen’s Tavern in Union also hosts its own Turkey Testicle Festival over a span of two nights.
With a bigger heated tent and more space this year, Clasen’s at 17628 Depot St. will serve up testicles beginning at 5 p.m. Nov. 19 and 4 p.m. Nov. 23. Both days include live music with Jim Duncan’s Joey Sunset Band performing from 7 to 11 p.m. Nov. 19. On Nov. 23, Alex Corn will perform from 4 to 7 p.m., followed by HiFi Superstar from 7 to 11 p.m.
The tavern expects up to 600 people Nov. 19 and around 500 people Nov. 23 to partake in the tradition, said Jim Hennig, who originally started the festival at Parkside before buying Clasen’s and hosting his own festival there for the past four years. The $5 entry fee will go to the Union Fire Department.
Why do people come?
“Because the night before Thanksgiving people just need any kind of stupid reason to go out and have fun,” he said with a laugh.
The idea there’s a festival with turkey testicles adds to the draw, he said.
“People that eat them, love them, and people that haven’t have to go try them,” he said. “It’s such a novelty.”
Unlike Parkside where the testicles are cut, at Clasen’s, the testicles are left whole to be fried in batter.
“They don’t taste like anything else,” Hennig said. “If you had one and then you went blind and someone gave you one 20 years later, you’d know exactly what it was. It’s a very unique flavor.”
PARKSIDE PUB TURKEY TESTICLE FESTIVAL
WHEN: Doors open at 11 a.m. Nov. 23
WHERE: Parkside Pub, 11721 Main St., Huntley
COST & INFO: Along with Parkside’s famous turkey testicles, the 34th annual festival will include a heated tent and live music. Bands include 7th Heaven at 1 p.m., Modern Day Romeos at 5 p.m. and Boy Band Review headlining from 9 p.m. until midnight. Bus routes available. For route information, visit www.parksidepubhuntley.com/ttf/. Admission is $10 a person. Advanced VIP tickets available for $60 at www.parksidepubhuntley.com/ttf/. VIP tickets include front-of-the line entry, a commemorative long-sleeve shirt, a designated area, private restrooms, designated bartenders, a sample cup of four to six nuts and a swag bag. Must be 21 years of age or older to attend. Information: www.parksidepubhuntley.com or 847-669-8496.
CLASEN'S TAVERN TURKEY TESTICLE FESTIVAL
WHEN: 5 p.m. Nov. 19 and 4 p.m. Nov. 23
WHERE: Clasen’s Tavern, 17628 Depot St., Union
COST & INFO: A fourth annual event featuring turkey testicles and live music, with Jim Duncan’s Joey Sunset Band from 7 to 11 p.m. Nov. 19. On Nov. 23, Alex Corn will perform from 4 to 7 p.m. followed by HiFi Superstar from 7 to 11 p.m. The $5 entrance fee will go to the Union Fire Department. Turkey Testicle shirts and hoodies will be for sale. Information: 815-923-4164 or www.clasenstavern.com.