Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Rattlesnake Hunt Drums Up Business for Small Towns in Oklahoma

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Rattlesnake Hunt Drums Up Business for Small Towns in Oklahoma

Article excerpt

A few rattlesnakes can shake up a town for the better.

"We're going to outfit a new tanker truck for the fire department thanks to the turnout this year," Waurika City Manager Chuck Brown said. "We were really blessed this year with huge numbers. Friday and Saturday, they just about killed us."

That's visiting people, not snakes - Brown was referring to the estimated 7,000 tourists and hunters who passed through his town of about 2,000 for the 49th annual Rattlesnake Hunt over the April 9 weekend. And those people bought snake-themed T-shirts, fanged and rattled knickknacks and snake meat meals, worth thousands of dollars, he said, not to mention gasoline, drinks and other goods from local merchants.

"There's no doubt this makes a big difference to our economy. We count on it every year," Brown said.

The Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department lists at least two other rattlesnake events this month, the Rattlesnake Derby on April 23 in Mangum and the Rattlesnake Roundup on April 30 in Okeene.

Organizers of the Okeene roundup said that at 71 years old, theirs is the oldest in the country and the granddaddy of all others. The town wouldn't have kept holding the event if it didn't pay off, said Sherri Feely, executive director of the Okeene Chamber of Commerce.

"For such a small town, it's a pretty big deal for us," Feely said. "It brings thousands of people into town who wouldn't normally visit."

Feely said local merchants start preparing for the event months in advance, stocking stores with specialty souvenir items and scheduling plenty of staff throughout the weekend.

The lone Okeene motel normally focuses its services on oil industry business, Feely said, and most visitors seeking rooms for the weekend have to bring their own camping equipment or stay out of town. A local business this year is converting a vacant storage building to something of an "indoor camping" hostel for the snake hunt weekend, she said. …

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