Slithery serpents celebrated

Walnut Springs hosts successful annual Rattlesnake Roundup

WALNUT SPRINGS – Started by the Lions Club many, many years ago and taken over by the Walnut Springs Business for Youth in Agriculture in 2011, the three-day Walnut Spring Rattlesnake Roundup on the first weekend of March has grown into the town’s marquee attraction.

The event combines ridding the area of excessive rattlesnake dens with a fundraiser for the local youth, a Barbecue Cookoff, a Chili Cookoff, a carnival for the kids, vendors and two evenings of music and dancing. Jojo the Capucin monkey is a regular, entertaining the crowd as they fill up on huge funnel cakes, shop for unique finds.

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Safely behind the pit barrier visitors marvel at the The Good Ol’ Boys snake show Rattlesnake Roundup in Walnut Springs March 6-8.

The rattlesnakes brought in by the snake hunters are featured in the snake charmer show by the Good Ol’ Boys. This year’s show featured several new items, making it interesting for returning visitors.

When entering the Snake Pit where the shows are held, the continuous soft rattle of the 289 snakes in the pit is somewhat ominous, and several younger visitors were clearly rattled by the serpent experience.

Others watched fascinated, even wanting to tough one of the slithery serpents when snake handler from Pennsylvania Dave Thomas came around with one. Thomas also showed a very rare – one in 32,000 according to the snake handling team– albino rattler; an exquisitely beautiful light yellow and cream snake with a red tongue and pink eyes. In the wild, the albinos do not survive past the juvenile stage, since their coloring makes them easily detectable by hawks, owls, secretary birds and other predators like possums and bobcats.

This year, a group of men – Sammy Ortega, Gary Anderson, Eddi and Jesse Whitt brought in the most rattlers in pounds – 213 pounds worth. The heaviest snake in 2020 weighed in at 5.77 pounds and brought in by Brandon Hardin, Randall Griffin and Mikey Todd. It’s not the $100 cash prize, but the bragging rights that have the rattlesnake hunters excited to participate.

Over the years, the activities surrounding the three-day rattlesnake roundup have increased, offering a variety of musical entertainment in the town’s saloons and a dance at the community center, new rides at the carnival, the IBCA sanctioned Rattlesnake Barbecue Cookoff, and a CASI sanctioned chili cookoff hosted by the Bosque Animal Rescue Kennels.

Grand Champion out of 31 teams cooking the Texas trio – brisket, ribs and chicken was Dwayne Turnbo of Steel Smoke with 21 points. Hot on his heels with 20 points was Reserve Grand Champion Tim Balch - Balch's Blazin BBQ.

Turnbo racked up his points with a third place brisket, fourth place chicken and a fifth place ribs. Balch came in first with his brisket and placed second in ribs. His chicken placed tenth.

There were two contest days for the Second Annual Chili Cookoff. On Friday with 15 cookers competing, first place went to Robert Dutch of Irving with second place going to Meridian’s Jason Goains. On Saturday with 19 competing, first place went to Joe Spittler of Temple and second place to Sharon Goldstein of Bedford.

Both the snake show and live entertainment fees benefit the Walnut Springs Youth in Agriculture program, and bring in about half the organization’s funds for different projects. The organization raises money for youth livestock projects, but in recent years has expanded their support to scholarships and community events. The organization was very happy with the good turnout to the event, which is growing in popularity with each year.

Photos by SIMONE WICHERS-VOSS

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