50 Years Of Celebrating The Rattler

The Whigham Community Club celebrates a major milestone Saturday with its 50th Annual Rattlesnake Roundup, and thousands of folks are expected to brave the hiss and shake of the diamond backed reptiles for a day of otherwise family oriented activities and shopping.
Arts and crafts booths, food vendors, live entertainment along with an increased number of child oriented activities are all part of the Roundup with the Snake Ring serving as the focal point.
Parking for the event is free, with a $2 entry fee per person collected at the gate, which opens around 9 a.m. Money raised at Rattlesnake Roundup goes toward projects supported by the Whigham Community Club. “The whole purpose of the Whigham Community Club is to give back to the community, and I think we do a pretty good job of doing that. This is our main fund raiser,” explains Travis Shepherd, community club president. Some projects supported by the club include sponsoring the Boy Scout troop, supporting Whigham School PTO and band, along with the cattle show and hog show, Shepherd says. The club has between 30-40 members who meet on the first and third Mondays of each month at 7 p.m. at their community center in Whigham where they enjoy a meal together, followed by a meeting.
The first Rattlesnake Roundup took place in 1960. The earliest records are from 1965, which indicate 206 snakes were captured and brought to the roundup. Although the total number of snakes has fluctuated over the years, the highest number was recorded in 1995 with 610 snakes. That was an unusually high number, most years saw between 100-300 snakes at the roundup. In 2009, there were 163 snakes brought in by area hunters.
Barry Strickland, snake ring coordinator, says he cannot predict how many snakes hunters will bring. “We never know what we’re going to get until they (hunters) show up. They’re secretive about it. They don’t want people to know how many they’ve got,” Strickland says. The hunters compete for prize money for having the largest snake or the most snakes. The most snakes category has the largest purse with first place winning $400; $250 for second; $200 for third; $175 for fourth; and $150 for fifth place. The hunter with the heaviest snake wins $200, and second place hunter wins $150. Awarding of prizes to snake hunters takes place at 2 p.m. in the Snake Ring.
Snake handling demonstrations take place at 11:45 a.m., 12:45 p.m., and 2:45 p.m.
Concerns by detractors and conservationists that rattlesnake roundups harm the rattlesnake population are not worthy according to the Whigham Community Club’s president. “I think that’s an over exaggerated concern,” says Travis Shepherd, “I’m a forester, and I’m in the woods all of the time, and I see the same number of rattlesnakes now as I did 25 years ago.” Shepherd says the roundup educates the public about snakes and snake habitats. “There’s ways to manage the environment in good ways and bad ways, and I don’t think anything we do is detrimental to the community. We give back what we get,” he points out.

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