The following article is from Your Abilene Online, follow the link to the original article. A little education and an attitude adjustment is needed here.
Annual roundup of rattlers just around corner
By Ron Erdrich firstname.lastname@example.org
Posted February 20, 2011 at 10:30 p.m.
Brittany Lashinski wishes she could do it all again. But for Miss Snake Charmer 2010, it's time to pass-on the crown.
If March is around the corner, so is the World's Largest Rattlesnake Roundup in Sweetwater and its companion event, the Miss Snake Charmer Pageant.
Lashinski, 17, said the past year has been unique for her.
"I got to meet a lot of people, and I took a lot of interviews," she said, adding that, though her time in the role is ending, she was just asked to do a commercial.
She learned a lot about herself, too. It takes courage to get up on stage, speak eloquently, model a gown and perform before a large crowd, she said. The experience forged a new self confidence.
"I learned I can talk in front of people and that I can be that girl, to wear the crown," she said. "Even though I'm not wearing heels every day, you can do whatever you set your mind to."
On Friday, 20 girls presented themselves to the Big Country as the roundup held its annual Media Day. The pageant awards scholarship money to the winners. All contestants must be of high-school age and live within 75 miles of Sweetwater. The roundup weekend begins March 10 with a parade and the pageant that evening. March 11 is when the doors open at the Nolan County Coliseum for the roundup.
The Sweetwater Jaycees runs the roundup, and spokesman Riley Sawyers said its purpose is to keep the rattlesnake population under control. Now in its 52nd year, he also said the annual event educates people on what to do if they encounter rattlesnakes.
"We're not out to deplete the snake population; this area can hold a 50-year average of over 5,000 pounds of snakes per year," he said. "If we didn't have the roundup, there's no telling how many snakes would be in your front yard, your backyard, around your kids and your animals."
With the recent warm weather, he thinks if it continues to stay warm that the turnout of snakes and visitors could be very high.
"I'm a snake hunter myself, and this year I can definitely say, just from my own experience, it's better than last year," he said. "I've been out several times this year, and I'm already past the amount of snakes I caught last year, and I haven't even reached the peak of my hunting yet."
Hunters are paid for the snakes they bring in. The animals are weighed, measured, milked for venom, and then killed and skinned. Their meat is harvested and used for the roundup's signature dish, deep-fried snake meat.
One of the duties of Miss Snake Charmer is skinning snakes, and this year's contestants got their first opportunity to do so Friday. Lashinski said last year she was squeamish about it, but this time around she stepped up and showed them how it was done.
"I was a big baby last year, I cried because I didn't want to do it," she said, changing her mind at the time and having a good time with it. "It's kind of gross, but you get used to it, you see the fun in it."