Heritage Party serves up 'oysters,' fun

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The key to getting someone to try a Rocky Mountain Oyster for the first time is telling him or her to try it before they know what it is.

"Then you tell them later," Janey Romick said. "Then they're hooked on them forever."

Janey and Jack Romick munched happily on their Rocky Mountain Oysters, which were being served at the Heritage Party on the courthouse lawn yesterday.

Others peered cautiously at the fried bulls' testicles, and many tried the specialty for the first time.

Jack Romick said it is the cleanest part of the animal you can eat.

Rick Spencer, who catered the event, said the oyster fry had a significant meaning.

"It's just the chamber trying to keep the Western heritage of the valley alive," Spencer said.

He said the delicacy has a long history behind it. What began as a ranching tradition slowly became commercially popular.

"(Now) they're going to have the oysters as a novelty," Spencer said of today's tourists. He also sold barbecue beef, pulled-turkey sandwiches and jumbo hot dogs at the event.

"It's a bad day to be a bull," Spencer joked.

Spencer and Jack and Janey Romick all said they didn't know how the term Rocky Mountain Oyster was coined.

"I just call them nuts," Jack Romick said with a grin.

Riley Polumbus, the public relations director for the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association, tried an oyster for the first time at the party. After living in Colorado all of her life, she said it was something she needed to at least try once.

"It tastes like breaded something," she said as she carefully bit into the oyster. "It's definitely different. I'm not in love with it."

The Resort Association organized the Heritage Party in honor of the 100th annual Cowboy Roundup days. Besides the food, spectators were treated to music and spoken poetry.

Local bands The Yampa Valley Boys, Humble Pickers and 3-Wire played on a stage set up on the lawn. In between musical acts, cowboy poets John Fisher, Patsy Wilhelm and Bill and Cynthia May read their poetry.

The readings were a mixture of heartfelt storytelling and laidback joking.

Commemorative T-shirts were on sale at the party for $10. The chamber also was selling the book "Steamboat Springs Legends" for $35.

"It's an awesome resource," Polumbus said. "There's a lot of really neat information."

Admission to the party was free, and the lawn slowly filled with people. After getting food and drinks, spectators crowded onto shaded grass and watched the bands.

Spencer said he didn't mind if his profits were slim from the event.

"A lot of these things you don't make money at," he said. "It's to help out the community."

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