At the tail end of a recent interview, the founder of the Rock Creek Lodge’s infamous Testicle Festival, Rod Lincoln, balked at a question about how he’ll be remembered in light of starting such a dubiously crass event.
“I have enough ego,” he said in his typically blunt but personable manner. “I don’t need to take no credit for none of this bullshit. The bottom line is the people are the stars. All I did was turn the lights on and serve the nuts.”
Lincoln sold the lodge and retired more than two years ago, and on Sunday, Aug. 5, the last day of the Testy Fest’s 25th annual celebration, he died after a long bout with cancer. Lincoln was 64.
He was an unlikely figure to become the face of the Testicle Festival. A graduate of St. Regis High School and later the University of Montana, he went on to receive both his masters and PhD in education. He worked throughout various Montana school systems and was once the state’s youngest school superintendent at age 29.
In 1982, after he retired from academia, Lincoln purchased the Rock Creek Lodge. Looking for some way to distinguish his bar, he decided to host a Rocky Mountain oyster feed and dubbed it the Testicle Festival. The first year he drew between 300 and 400 visitors; 10 years later the weekend was attracting crowds upward of 10,000.
But while the Testy Fest garnered international attention and made Lincoln a mini-celebrity, it wasn’t always roses.
“I think the image I got out of this whole thing was that I was some sort of dirty old man,” said a reflective Lincoln in his last interview. “But those who know me know I’m not quite that particular description. I was just a business man trying to make a nice living—it just happened to involve a little bit of nudity and a lot of good times.”
Ultimately, Lincoln concluded those good times were worth it.
“Ninety-nine percent of the people don’t have a clue who I am, and that’s just fine with me,” he said. “I mean, there were famous people, politicians, reporter types and this and that who came, but I didn’t really care. I cared about the many interesting common ol’ people more than any so-called famous movie types. You know, there’s a ton of very interesting people wandering this earth—and we attracted most of them.”