The Rattlesnake Roundup in Sweetwater Texas
It All Started In Abilene Texas
Between the years 1994-2007, I lived in Abilene Texas and it was an interesting experience. Abilene is not a big town, but its not as small as it used to be either. The population is about 100,000 now and it’s definitely growing with business’s booming all around.
Abilene is home to Dyess Air Force Base, and you could say that it is the driving force behind the success of Abilene, as there is a huge military population. Abilene treats its military with much respect.
There are a couple of large Christian Universities in Abilene and people from all over the U.S come to Abilene to go to these schools because of their fine reputations such as, McMurry University, Abilene Christian University and Hardin Simmons University.
When I first learned of The Rattlesnake Roundup, I had not a clue of what it was, I had never been to such an event and my ex-husband assured me that I would enjoy it. For many years I refused to go and so my ex-husband would go without me, as he thrived on festivals such as this. The event is held in a nearby town named Sweetwater, Texas, and it is a quaint little town out in west Texas and it looks very desert like and extremely hot, boy is it hot there.
Sweetwater is in the Nolan County area and has a population of about 11,000. It is also the home of the Avenger Field. During WWII, The Women Air force Service Pilots were trained there, and after the end of the war the airstrip was closed and the women were not recognized for having served there. Then in 1977, General Hap Arnold, son of Colonel Bruce Arnold, persisted in getting these women the recognition they deserved and now the field is the site of the Texas State Technical College.
Sweetwater is also known for its wind turbines which really are interesting to see, and have created many jobs for Sweetwater and Abilene residents as well. It is referred to as the “Wind Turbine Capital of Texas“
The Jaycees is a civic organization that provides training for men and women between the ages of 18-41. Some areas of training are business management, development, community service, and international connections. It is a non-profit organization, that has been involved with the Muscular Dystrophy Organization, and March of Dimes. They have built playground for kids, parks, ball fields, hospitals and housing for the elderly. They are very well respected in Sweetwater, and sponser the Rattlesnake Roundup every year.
The Rattlesnake Roundup
The Sweetwater Rattlesnake Roundup started in 1958 and is the largest Rattlesnake Roundup in the United States, sponsored by the Jaycees, and is held every second week in March annually and is located at the Nolan County Coliseum.
The Rattlesnake Roundup is one of those events that you either love or hate, the first time that I finally attended this event I think I was in a state of shock. I am from Texas, and have gone to my share of rodeos and festivals, but the roundup was something that I wasn’t expecting, that’s not to say that everyone wouldn’t like it, because the people from Texas come out in droves to see this spectacular event each year.
Outside the event you will see thousands of people walking around looking at all the vendors who come out from all over to sell their goods. They have all kinds of food out there, such as the best BBQ you will find in Texas, and a chili cook off, as well as all kinds of arts and crafts for sale. Lots of stuff made out of rattlesnake of course. And their specialty deep fried rattlesnake.
They also have the Rattlesnake Parade through the town of Sweetwater to start off the events, and they also crown Miss Snake Charmer in their pageant
Who Would Go to Such and Event?
Well you certainly wont find any snake lovers at this event judging from what they do to these snakes, as they are skinned and deep fried, and if you are scared of snakes, you are going to see thousands of snakes at this event. Of course all the rattlesnakes are contained, but it certainly is an amazing thing to see so many snakes in one place.
They have events such as the weigh-in for the largest rattler found, as well as the snake handling event. But if you are like me I went for the chili cook off and the brisket. Although I did enjoy the event for its outdoors activities, there are so many friendly people in Sweetwater; and the items for sale were very interesting as well.
I found some of the events inside the coliseum a little upsetting, such as the skinning of the snakes, as I had never witnessed this before. The huge snake pits where there are thousands of snakes was a little intimidating, and I feared for the guy inside the pit handling the snakes, but he didn’t have any trouble and he didn’t seem scared either. There is also the show where they remove the venom from the snakes. I just found it kind of disconcerting when you see these men dressed in butchers aprons that are covered in blood, skinning these snakes, and the smell in the whole place was a bit overwhelming..
I would have to say that it is an event that a person has to see for themselves to form an opinion, but if you like this sort of thing, then it is an event you wont soon forget that is for sure.
Although this event has been criticized for animal cruelty, the event claims that they got started in 1958 because of the overwhelming amount of snakes in the area, but there is also the criticism that events such as these results in decline of the rattlesnake population, and therefore resulting in ecological consequences such as for the animals that they feed upon.
The Diamondback rattler can be longer than seven feet in length and is the biggest of 20+ species and sub-species of Southwestern desert rattlers. Rattlers belong to a class of 100+ species of poisonous snakes generally called pit vipers.
Rattlesnakes can be a problem to ranchers, hunters, campers, hikers and anyone else who wants to enjoy the outdoors. For this reason, rattlesnake round ups began as a way to control the snake population.
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