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February 25, 2012

Day Trips: Sweetwater's rattlesnake Roundup

HUNTSVILLE — Forget deer and wild hogs, it's rattlesnake hunting time.

Each year, the Sweetwater Jaycees host the World's Largest Rattlesnake Round-Up. This year's round-up is March 8 -11.

The weekend events kick off with a Rattlesnake Review  parade, which is like any other parade in Texas — horses, some floats and some more horses. One lucky girl will get crowned Miss Snake Charmer at a pageant after the parade. On Friday, events hit full swing at the Nolan County Coliseum. Doors open at 8 with a rattlesnake weigh-in at 7. Guided snake hunts take place all weekend, led by professional snake hunters.

You can eat deep-fried western diamondback rattlers or attend a snake safety demonstration. There are also flea markets, a carnival and a gun and knife show. Can’t very well kill a rattler without a gun or knife — well, unless you're packing a shovel.

For the cast-iron-stomached, there’s a rattlesnake round-up cook off Saturday. My favorite events take place until Sunday. First up is rattlesnake-eating contest at 2 p.m. followed by the Jaycee beard contest. I’m told seasoning is everything to successful rattlesnake cooking. The meat will taste like whatever it’s seasoned to taste like, be it chicken or fish.

This event has been going on for more than 50 years and in that time, more than 123 tons of rattlesnakes have been turned in. It was originally started by farmers and ranchers in Sweetwater who were tired of fending off the slithery beasts. Since 1974, proceeds from the event have benefited the MHMR for the mentally handicapped, the Boy and Girl Scouts, Special Olympics, Tri-County Children's Advocacy Center, the American Red Cross and many more.

If you can't wait for the Sweetwater event, or you just have a lot of rattlesnake hunting stamina, there's a similar rattlesnake round-up in Walnut Springs March 2-4. Walnut Springs boasts snake shows by professional handlers, as well as a carnival and dance.

A valid Texas hunting license and valid non-game permit are required to hunt snakes at either round-up. For more information on the Walnut Springs Rattlesnake Round-up, call (254) 205-6151.

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