Have you ever seen a rattlesnake completely skinned, with its flesh taken out, ready to be deep-fried? No? How about a show where one of the main attractions is a man lying down in a sleeping bag, filled with rattlers? You’ll see all that and learn something about rattlesnakes too in this documentary that profiles a major passion in Waurika, Oklahoma, where each year, they host the World’s Largest and Friendliest Rattlesnake Hunt and Festival.
At this festival, the 41st for the town, you’ll find the standard carnival rides, but more than that, hundreds and hundreds of rattlesnakes are present, from the compound in which they’re kept after people find them, to the show put on by the Fangs & Rattlers Association of Granbury, Texas, to the butcher’s chopping block where things get very messy.
Out in dusty, open spaces, rattlesnakes make their nests and are usually active from April-September, during which time after, they hibernate. The first weeks of April are always the best times to catch these critters and the most dedicated of hunters are crouching down toward the nests, ready with their tools of the trade, to pick up these mascots, food, and entertainment of the festival. A herpetologist from the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation is on hand in separate interviews to explain what the rattlesnake is made up of, such as the venom, the teeth, and other parts. Then we’re on our way, watching these hunters try to capture their prey. It is known that many use gasoline to get the rattlers scurrying out of their nests and 99% of the time, it works. Even though it’s now been made illegal, that method is still used, though not on-camera.
And once those rattlesnakes are caught, they go right into the wooden compound used to store these creatures. For the first 800 pounds that the festival receives, each person is paid five bucks. Basically, if one person brings in 3 pounds, that’s 15 bucks, until the point where they’ve got 800 pounds worth of snakes. After 800, the price drops to $4.50 and it keeps going down, down, down.
If you’re wondering what in the hell a festival like this could do with 800 pounds worth of snakes, there’s plenty. The Fangs & Rattlers Association from Granbury, Texas provides one of the major highlights of this documentary, thanks to the filmmakers, with extensive footage of their show. And you’ve got to see some of these stunts. There’s what I refer to as the “pancake maneuver”, where one of the gentlemen take each coiled snake and stack them on one top of the other. And the sleeping bag is something amazing and incredibly insane. But these guys know what they’re doing and some of them have done it for a good 20 years or more.
The best part for viewers who like their entertainment gross (for those who don’t, there’s fair warning at the beginning of the doc) is the chopping blocks where experienced snake butchers do what they do best. Here, you’ll see a snake without its head and learn just how long the head can survive. Also, when they peel the skin off those rattlesnakes, it’s awe-inspiring, that is if you have the stomach for it.
If you don’t get a chance to attend this festival anytime soon, rest assured that the details in this documentary will teach you just as much about rattlesnakes that the festival does on a yearly basis. The dedication of the many people who make this festival possible, from the butchers, to the Outlaw Handlers as they’re known, to the festival announcers, is palpable and it makes for a goddamn good time!

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