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Snakes in town!

Opp officials have almost finalized the schedule for this weekend’s Rattlesnake Rodeo, city planner Don Childre said.

“We are working on tightening the schedule,” he said. “We are going to try to follow the brochure schedule as far as entertainers go. So, it will be a lot like the schedule in the brochure.”

Childre said organizers don’t sell a lot of advanced tickets, but the days of the concerts, they sell quickly.

“We have people who walk out in aprons and sell the tickets, so it goes by fast,” he said. “The closer to the concert, the more people get there.”

Childre said he has been traveling around the state trying to stir up publicity for the rodeo.

“We’ve been traveling to Birmingham, Troy, Evergreen, Montgomery and Troy,” he said.

So far, Childre said they have collected 58 snakes for the rodeo, but will probably end up with close to 100, all of which come from Covington, Coffee and Dale counties.

“The largest one is about 9 pounds and more than 6 feet,” he said. “All in all, they are bigger this year. We have a lot in the 8 to 9 pound range.”

When the rodeo is over, what will the city do with all of these snakes?

“It varies from year to year,” Childre said. “They are going to a skin dealer this year. In past years, Auburn has gotten them because rattlesnakes have a parasite in their lungs. We’ve also given them for venom milking. There is not much of a snake you can’t use. The meat sells for $14 to $15 a pound. Skins are in high demand for boots. One year we collected vertebrates and boiled them down and sent the to the Hopi Indian tribe, who used them for jewelry. They grind them down and you can’t even tell what it was. And everyone wants a rattle.”

Perhaps the most interesting thing Childre said they did with the snakes was that one year a group from Japan collected gall bladders for their folk medicine.

Childre said one year rodeo officials actually skinned and cleaned the rattlesnake meat, but since then have decided to buy USDA inspected snake meet because it satisfies health department specifications and it’s a lot easier.

“We’ll have about 200 pounds of snake meat,” he said.