Worth the Drive: Rattlesnake Roundup

You might think the Rattlesnake is the Texas State Reptile, but that honor was bestowed upon the far less dangerous blood-squirting Texas Horned Lizard way back in 1993.

Still, rattlesnakes are incredibly common in Texas and are known for their aggressive temperament as much as for their "you're too close to me" notification system.

If you've never met a rattler up close and personal, this weekend you should point your car west and drive to Sweetwater for the World's Largest Rattlesnake Roundup. The roundup, started in 1958 so that farmers and ranchers could trim the number of snakes in their fields, thereby saving their livestock, has turned into an event that draws tens of thousands of visitors each year to the town of 12,000 people.  Believe it or not, promoters of the event say that visitors attend the roundup from as far away as Europe and Asia. Yes, really.

So, what can you do at a Rattlesnake Roundup you ask?  Of course, with the necessary permit and a bit of courage, you can take part in guided rattlesnake hunts (the roundup). Your catch can either be donated or sold to the Sweetwater Jaycees, the host and main benefactor of the event who use the proceeds from the roundup to fund all sorts of community-building endeavors.

If you don't actually want to hunt rattlesnake, yet have an ache in your belly that needs satisfying, you can try deep-fried western diamondback rattlesnake meat.  When slathered in BBQ sauce, I don't know that it'd taste much different than prairie or eastern timber rattlesnake, but I could be wrong.  I can tell you that I've had diamondback grilled and it, fairly predictably, tastes of chicken.

If you aren't quite that adventurous, there will be plenty of traditional BBQ and other local favorites available to satisfy your hunger.

In addition to hunting and eating rattlesnake, there is plenty at the roundup for the entire family. There is a rattlesnake exhibit, where you can see living specimens large and small handled by professionals. There is a carnival (take the kids), a Rattlesnake Roundup Dance on both Friday and Saturday nights (take your honey), and the crowning of the Miss Snake Charmer Scholarship Pageant.  Sadly, we've already missed the pageant for 2011 -- but we expect Miss Snake Charmer, who was crowned Thursday night, to be in attendance over the weekend.

Finally, there is also a the Rattlesnake Parade, which despite its name is not a parade of rattlesnakes but rather a traditional parade with marching bands and floats.  Surely, at least one of the floats will resemble a rattler.

In short, there is plenty to buy, see, catch, eat and drink in Sweetwater this weekend.  It's an interesting event, not too far away and it all benefits a good cause (unless you're a rattlesnake) -- all of which make the World's Largest Rattlesnake Roundup totally Worth the Drive.

Sweetwater is a little more than three hours from Fort Worth.  The event is held at the Nolan County Coliseum with several events taking place at other locations in Sweetwater. For a complete schedule and for more information, visit rattlesnakeroundup.net.

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