HUNTLEY – When Brittany Snyder of Lake in the Hills took her first bite into a deep-fried turkey testicle, she was surprised. She expected it to be awful.
"Oh my God," Snyder said. "It tastes like burnt chicken. It's really good."
Snyder was one of a crowd at the 30th annual Turkey Testicle Festival at the Parkside Pub, an event that draws about 4,000 people.
Snyder, 25, attended with friend Tara Graff of Crystal Lake, who is a three-year veteran of the festival.
"I love the atmosphere," Graff said. "My favorite part is the testicles."
Graff has her own pitch to ease people's concerns about eating testes.
"I tell them it tastes like chicken, but you have to have the hot sauce with them," Graff said. "I feel like I'm eating a chicken tender."
Graff, 24, said she would serve them at her own Thanksgiving dinner if she knew the recipe.
"I would put them in a bowl and tell people 'eat these testicles,' " she said.
The annual festival takes place under a tent in a parking lot next to the tavern.
Bands play and people sing along while drinking beers to help swallow the testicles.
The 1,200 pounds of testicles are shipped in from a farm in Michigan and take a few days to thaw out.
"It's obviously a product I want to sell out of. I don't order extra," said tavern co-owner Jeff Lovell said.
The testicles are about an inch to inch-and-a-half long before they're cooked. Workers coat them in a breading made from a secret recipe. Then they're deep-fried for 15 minutes to become finger food.
"It is similar to cooking chicken," Lovell said. "The biggest comparison we get is they [taste] like a deep fried mushroom. Anything breaded and deep fried can't be bad."
Volunteers worked the festival for donations to Make-a-Wish, Huntley youth sports organizations and finding a cure for breast cancer, among other causes.
"It's an annual thing for all the people coming back in town for Thanksgiving," Lovell said. "We get customers on this day that we only see on this day, but we see them every year."
Natalie Walker, who is home from San Antonio, attended the festival for the first time Wednesday.
"We think about it every year, we just never made it out here," Walker said. "I was excited to try some turkey testicles and a little nervous."
Her father David Walker of Lakewood, said, "I didn't know what I expected, but they're good." He said he found them to be a little salty and "The smaller ones are better."