Boom year for bull balls 

The recession is proving to be anything but a swift kick to the Testicle Festival this year.

Event coordinator and Rock Creek Lodge owner Matt Powers says preliminary numbers for the notoriously low-brow celebration of bull balls—aka Rocky Mountain Oysters—look demonstrably higher than last year.

"Our numbers are probably three times more now than they were six years ago," Powers says.

Powers points to Testy Fest phones ringing non-stop with motorcycle enthusiasts across the country hoping to claim camp space on the lodge's nine acres. He estimates at least 5,500 visitors from previous years returning and has overstaffed security in anticipation of a boom year.

The buzz at Rock Creek Lodge echoes the atmosphere surrounding this year's Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in South Dakota. Sturgis City Manager David Boone says the city expects to rebound from a 2008 dip in crowds caused largely by high gas prices. Property rentals for vendors are up 18 percent, while sponsorship revenues are up 4 to 6 percent.

"Last year, gas was $4.50 a gallon," Boone says. "Now we're slightly above $2 a gallon. That in and of itself is a stimulus package for the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally."

Statistics from the city's Sturgis Rally Department–yes, the rally has its own department–show traffic counts last summer dropped 56,032 from 2007. Boone says he doesn't expect the economy to impact bikers' decision to visit Sturgis the way gas prices did.

"If you're a motorcycle enthusiast, this is Mecca to you and most people will not compromise on that," Boone says.

Powers admits one mild economic concern for Testy Fest, which began July 29. Bigger crowds don't mean bigger payoffs. The average Testicle Festival patron spends about $52, but vacationers are watching expenses closely these days.

"I think people are going to tighten up their pocket books," Powers says. "I think we'll have more people, but I think people will be less spendy, which is fine. Once people come, they'll realize it's not the same party it was 10 years ago...and once the economy starts coming back, those people will come, spend more money and bring their friends."

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