The largest fund raiser for the Noxen Volunteer Fire Department, the Rattlesnake Roundup, will be held over Father’s Day weekend, June 14-17.
With blue skies and high temperatures forecasted for this weekend, Noxen Fire Chief Lew Hackling estimates large crowds.
“We will expect to see between eight and ten thousand people over the four days,” said the chief. “This is a family tradition. We always sell out of the tee shirts and beer mugs, lots of repeat fair-goers.”
The Rattlesnake Roundup started in the early 1970s by the Noxen-Monroe Sportsman Association which sponsored the event until 1984. It started as a fund raiser for the NMSA trout fish hatchery.
The Noxen VFD resurrected the roundup in 1986.
Hackling said there were plenty of food options from funnel cake to pierogies, not to mention the clams and beer tent.
Grounds open at 6 p.m. on Thursday and Friday and 1 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.
The Rattlesnake Roundup boasts so much more than snakes, including games, rides, and entertainment.
Chief Hackling noted that there is a vendor who brings caged snakes into one of the carnival booths, and usually will have snakes not found in our area for people to view.
Beginning on Thursday, live entertainment will be featured every night. Shelly’s Underground will perform at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Strawberry Jam at 7 p.m. on Friday, 3rd Degree Reunion at 7 p.m. on Saturday, and Iron Cowboy at 6 p.m. on Sunday.
Madman Mike will DJ at 1 p.m. on Saturday, while Ray Phillips Sight and Sound can be heard Sunday at 1 p.m.
The Fire Department parade will be Saturday at 6 p.m. and all activities will conclude with a fireworks display Sunday at 10 p.m.
But for those interested in the featured attraction, have no fear.
“The snake area is the not- to-be missed area,” boasted Chief Hackling.
The snakes are on display Saturday from 1 to 8 p.m. and Sunday from 1 to 6 p.m.
“Sunday from 3 to 5 would be the best time to see the snakes,” Hackling said.
The actual “rounding up” part of the roundup will be for any snakes in the area, that are not endangered or a candidate for the endangered species list.
All hunters must be licensed by the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission and bring their own equipment.
“We will see about 30-50 hunters and award prizes for different categories. One of them is ‘most species,’ and the winner will usually have between six and 10 different types,” said Hackling.
He continued, “The snakes are tagged with a chip, like for dogs and cats, so we can monitor and use them for learning. We have a 10-15 percent recapture rate of the rattlesnakes. All snakes are returned by sunset on Monday to their dens or area they were captured in.”
There are educational talks throughout the event, and free raffles for the kids that include snake posters full of information.
“Snakes are so misunderstood and we want you to ask us questions,” the chief said. “There are public address systems putting out information and encouraging people to ask questions.”
The local fire department, along with multiple handlers inside the snake areas, are responsible for safety of both the snakes and people.
“During the carnival, the snakes are in an area with a three foot high chicken wire fence with snake handlers in the fenced off area with them. There is then a roped off safety zone back from the fence. The snakes are locked in a cage at night,” explained the chief.
“We also have snake tubing, where we coax the rattler into a tube, that kind of looks like a fluorescent light. It protects the snake from being able to bite anyone. We use it to educate the crowd. We can talk about what to look for in venomous snakes, and show them up close. The eye shape, the scales behind the vents, show the rattles, see how timber rattlers have large scales, those kind of things,” said Hackling.
“Timber rattlesnakes are a huge part of our ecosystem and the loss of their habitat is the biggest threat to the snakes.”