Mountain Oyster fest in Virginia City takes… well, you know |

Mountain Oyster fest in Virginia City takes… well, you know

Andrew Pridgen
Appeal Staff Writer
Photos by BRAD HORN/Nevada Appeal Bill Craig pours deep-fried oysters into a serving tray at the annual Mountain Oyster Festival and St. Patrick's Day parade on Saturday. Top, Brian O'Connell, of Carson City, serves in the American Legion Post 56 honor guard, and participated in the parade in Virginia City.

The snow flurries flew almost as fast as innuendo and metaphor Saturday in Virginia City as the town’s annual Mountain Oyster Festival and St. Patrick’s Day parade gave spectators and food lovers alike a reason to smile.

Bedecked in green coats and green-dyed facial hair, a number of the area’s proud Irish sipped green beer and tooled along Main Street – their destination a cadre of pup tents, each containing camping stoves, burners and all the, um, “sheep parts” one could hope to digest.

“Let’s see here, what are we cookin’?” asked Bill Craig, a parent of Virginia City senior, Jared, who was cooking up a “sheep’s family jewels” as a fundraiser. “Yep, guess you could say we’re trying to raise money for (the) Virginia City baseball team.

“And we’ve got the balls right here.”

Craig, who was mixing a batter batch, said the team got together the night before for a little “nut skinning.”

“Trust me,” he said. “Those boys are now so glad they’re not sheep.”

Jared, a pitcher and shortstop for the 5-1 Muckers, said he needn’t sample his father’s epicurean delights – he had plenty of “exposure” to the delicacy the night before.

“I know where they come from,” he said. “I gotta just kind of stay away. I’ll prepare ’em, I’ll sell ’em – but I don’t think I want to eat ’em.”

Alex Atreides, a Silver Springs murder mystery writer, was busy stirring her Indian curry sheep testicles, and hoping to take home the coveted first-place trophy.

“Well, we’ve done this for three years and we do something different every year,” she said. “My curry works on chicken. So we decided why not try it on sheep’s balls?”

But does the squishy membrane resemble chicken?

“Not really,” she said. “It tastes like … um, well – it’s an acquired taste, and we’ll leave it at that.”

Defending cook-off champions Reno’s father-son duo Mel and Jon Carpenter didn’t much like their chances Saturday.

“I don’t know how we won last year,” Mel said, gesturing over to a creamy batter ready to dip and fry. “But we come here every year. This is our thing. Same recipe. Same people. Same sheep balls.”

Mel, who said a plastic gold sheep used to adorn the base of the three-foot-high trophy broke off last year.

“So I put a little cup of sheep crap down there instead,” he said. “Hopefully the new winner will have a sense of humor.”

As crowds began to gather for the parade and cook-off, area Girl Scout troops took to the mining town’s slatted sidewalks, cookies in hand.

Several thought their tasty treat was a good alternative to the entrails of a sheep.

“Ewwww,” said Scarlett Baeza, 8, of Carson City. “I like cookies – or strawberries – much better.”

• Contact reporter Andrew Pridgen at or 881-1219.

Best Overall Taste:

First Place: Comstock Chili

Second Place: Great Balls of Fire

Third Place: V.C.’s Finest

Most Creative:

First Place: Comstock Chili

Second Place: Great Balls of Fire

Third Place: Bats and Balls

Best Presentation:

First Place: Bats and Balls

Second Place: Comstock Chili

Third Place: Fireballs

Best Booth: Great Balls of Fire

Best First-Time Cooks: Bats and Balls, the Virginia City High School baseball team