Georgia Festival with Lots of Bite
Rattlesnakes: Hear, see and taste them during this annual Southwest Georgia festival.
The Southwest Georgia town of Whigham comes alive the last Saturday in January when thousands of rattlesnake fans gather for the annual Rattlesnake Roundup. During the one-day festival, snake hunters roundup reptiles, the public is educated and food ranging from fried rattlesnakes to funnel cakes are devoured.
What is the Roundup?
Most snake hunters begin the Rattlesnake Roundup combing Grady County’s wooded areas and collecting the venous snakes. Some hunters capture snakes prior to the event. Whigham’s longleaf pine-wiregrass ecosystem is prime habitat for the three types of snakes commonly caught during the roundup: Pigmy, Timber and Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnakes.
Snakes are usually captured with a long rod, either with a noose or hook at the end and commonly placed in a burlap bag then wooden box. Experienced hunters grab the snakes with their hands. Rattlesnake hunters bring the reptiles to the festival grounds where the reptiles are placed either in garbage-like cans or large plastic boxes. When the lids are lifted, the humming buzz of rattles quiets the crowd. The venomous reptiles are weighed and prizes are awarded to snake hunters who capture the most and the heaviest snakes.
Most people quiver when hearing the word rattlesnake. The purpose of the roundup is to clear up misconceptions about the reptiles and educate festival goers about their benefits. Experts show attendees how venom is extracted through a process called milking. The snake’s head is firmly grasped and the fangs are pressed against the edge of glass funnel and collected. It’s eventually processed into antivenom and some medicines to treat high blood pressure and thin blood.
Almost Like Chicken
While festival attendees wait for snakes to be turned in for milking and measuring, vendors sell food, arts and crafts and other treasures fitting all tastes. Of course, trinkets using snake heads, skins and fangs are plentiful, too. Gourmet cooks will appreciate the snake cooking demonstrations and taste buds can judge for themselves whether rattlesnake tastes like chicken.
Whigham Georgia’s Rattlesnake Roundup History
The event began in 1960 by the Whigham Community Club with a mission to benefit the Whigham area and Grady County. With a population just over 600 residents, the Rattlesnake Roundup is the city’s largest event. To date, the biggest rattlesnake captured was a 15 pound, 2 ounce Eastern Diamondback by snake hunter George Bond in 1976. At the end of the Rattlesnake Roundup, most snakes are sold for their meat and skin. The venom is processed into medicines.
Whigham is less than an hour’s drive north of Tallahassee, Fla., 20 minutes east of Bainbridge, Ga., and 30 miles west of Thomasville, Ga. The event takes place at the Rattlesnake Roundup Grounds on U.S. 84. Visit the Cairo and Grady County Chamber of Commerce Web site for travel information.