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Local News

April 9, 2012

Rattlesnake festival offers unique experience

Waurika Fire Department readies for big fundraiser

WAURIKA — If you’re a fan of rattles and scales, the time of year for the 51st Fang-tastic Waurika Rattlesnake Hunt has arrived once more. The nationally-known weekend dedicated to reptiles and having fun opens Friday and runs through Sunday, in the downtown Waurika.

Organizers have been busy preparing for the event and have several of the regular activities associated with the long weekend are ready to go. This, of course, means having a collection of snakes ready to butcher.

“We started buying (captured snakes) on March 15 and we already have about 1,000 pounds worth,” said Sherry England, who joins husband David as key organizers of the event, which goes to benefit the Waurika Volunteer Fire Department. “We encourage hunters to bring in the larger snakes and leave the small ones to mature.”

The hunt weekend offers a number of novel experiences, such as having a taste of deep-fried rattlesnake meat and the opportunity to have a picture taken with a live rattlesnake.

“They really drape it over your shoulders but they are defanged and their mouths are sewn shut,” England said.

In the butcher shop, snake meat, rattlers and hides can be bought, and so can the snakes’ organs and blood. England said nothing goes to waste, and — of course — many people say rattlesnake meat tastes like chicken.

During the organized hunts, hunts participants are set loose on two pieces of property outside of town, on which four marked snakes have been released. Hunters that turn in these snakes get $25, and various cash prizes are available for contests involving longest snake, most rattlers, shortest snake and snake sacking.

An annual constant is the daredevil snake handling demonstrations performed in a reptile-laden pit by James White & The Outlaw Handlers from Granbury, Texas.

Along with all the slithering festivities, a carnival, many vendor booths and even helicopter rides will be part of the event. Zac Smith, from SB Helicopter, will be offering rides either over the city or Waurika Lake.

“It’s the second year he’s come and people seem to enjoy it,” said England.

Pony rides, a rock wall and a snake safety show will also be available. In the vendor booths, a number of items will be for sale such as jewelry, T-shirts, hats, and purses. A variety of food will also be offered.

The Waurika Fire Department will be cooking a lot of the snake meat, as well as alligator on a stick and different carnival food. The proceeds from the events of the snake hunt go toward helping out the fire department.

“In the past, (the money) has bought equipment for the fire department,” England said. “It’s paid for a new Jaws of Life and new bunkers.”

Funds raised from the event usually are somewhere around $28,000 to $30,000.

Additionally, youngsters from the area will be selling raffle tickets for $1 each in order for a chance to win $500.

The girl — or boy — who sells the most tickets will have the honor of being named Rattlesnake Queen or King.

The festivities run from 6 to 10 p.m. Friday, from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday, and from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, when the snake contests are held.

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