Prickly Pear, Yearbook of Abilene Christian University, 2002 Page: 58
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The World's Largest Rattlesnake Roundup
A man removes the top to a yellow trashcan,
revealing it to be full of rattlesnakes. He
reaches in with a two pronged instrument,
grabs one and walks it as it hisses and squirms to a
The audience on the other side of the octagonshaped
barricade watches as he puts the snake on the
table and pinches the back of its neck, forcing its
mouth open. Children and grown men alike cringe
and gasp as the snake makes a sharp and menacing
movement toward the snake handler.
He never loses control of the snake but forces its
fangs onto a funnel, which milks the venom from the
snake's fangs and into a jar.
The venom-milking display is one of many spinetingling
sights at the The Sweetwater Jaycees World's
Largest Rattlesnake Roundup.
More than 25,000 people attended the event, held
March 7-10. The roundup is by far the largest event in
Sweetwater and Nolan County, said Leslie Bond,
president of the Sweetwater Jaycees, who have held
the event the past 44 years.
Visitors come from all over the country, and news
crews were present from France, Germany and
England to record the event.
"We were just passing through and the RV park
was full. They said there was a rattlesnake roundup,
so we decided to come here," said Ellis Wykstra, a
visitor to the roundup from Martin, Mich.
The roundup provides a weekend of entertainment
to many, including ACU students.
"I heard about it all my life, but I never came; this
was my first time," said Andrew Andress, junior secondary
education major from Abilene.
The event began on a Thursday with a
parade and Miss Snakecharmer Pageant,
the winner of which was Braid Sharp, an
ACU student and freshman broadcast
journalism major from Abilene.
Friday, Saturday and Sunday the
events included: snake handling demonstrations,
rattlesnake cook-offs, guided
snake hunts, a flea market and a carnival.
Snake hunters collect snakes throughout
the year and sell them at the Roundup
for $5 a pound. This year more than 3,000
pounds of western diamondback rattlesnakes
were brought to the event.
The snakes are used for demonstrations
and milked for venom. The venom
collected is used to produce anti-venom,
which is used to treat snakebites. They are
later killed for their skins, meat and rattles.
Live snakes left at the end of the
Roundup are sold to a predetermined
A service provided by the Roundup is the
research area. Records are kept of snakes' gender,
length, weight and the area where they were caught,
and the records are sent to Texas Parks and Wildlife
to build a database on rattlesnakes in West Texas.
The Roundup began in 1959 as a way to lower the
population of rattlesnakes in the area. Now The
World's Largest Rattlesnake Roundup remains as a
tradition and a defining characteristic of Sweetwater.
Opposite Page Top: The marshall for the Sweetwater Roundup holds up one of
the rattlesnakes so tourists can see the star of the show.
Opposite Page Right: Miss Snakecharmer Pagaent winner Braid Sharp places a
snake into a trashcan after it has been weighed and milked for venom.
photos by Rafael Aguilera
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Abilene Christian University. Prickly Pear, Yearbook of Abilene Christian University, 2002, yearbook, 2002; Dallas, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth39886/m1/61/: accessed June 27, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Abilene Christian University Library.