If attendees of the 54th Lone Star Fair and Expo learned one lesson, it was never pick up snakes.
Clad in snake-proof boots and with years of snake-handling experience, performers took the stage Friday and Saturday to entertain hundreds of visitors roaming through the Brownwood Coliseum, and provided tips for rattlesnake encounters.
Throughout the weekend, local rattlesnake experts Landon Schulze and David “Hollywood” Eastep of the Jaycees Rattlesnake Corps, as well as a slew of Jaycees volunteers, performed feats, which seemed mere stunts until the performers revealed the context of the stunt. Whether making wagers on if a volunteer could pull his feet from a pile of snakes without being bitten or piling rattlers around another volunteer seated in the middle of the snakepit, Schulze said each stunt had a unique lesson.
“They strike at motion and sound,” Schulze said. “Those are actual things that would occur if you’re out hiking, hunting or fishing. If you’re walking to your favorite fishing hole and you hear a snake rattle, you don’t know where it’s at so we explain to you stop, look around, get familiar with where you are walking to see where that snake may be at.
“If you were to run, then two things could happen. You could run right on top of him or trip on a rock, or boulder and hurt yourself.”
Schulze said the sitting stunt demonstrated what to do if someone encounters a snake while sitting. And his sleeping bag stunt, where Schulze lays on the ground while volunteers load snakes into the bag near his feet demonstrates what to do when encountering a snake while completely laying down.
“If you’re out camping, and all of the sudden you woke up in the middle of the night with something in your sleeping bag that wasn’t there when you went to bed, this teaches how to get out of that situation,” Schulze said. “All of our shows, about 90 percent of them are about education of rattlesnakes, what they do and how they are. Anywhere you are in the United States, you are going to run across a rattlesnake if you’re out in the wild. It’s all about educating people to understand how to deal with these things.”
The event also featured horse rides, a reptile showcase by Gator Country of Beaumont and more than 75 venders with food, memorablilia and other items for sale throughout the day, but event organizer Pat McLaughlin said the central focus is, and has always been, rattlesnake education.
“In central Texas, we have a lot of rattlesnakes in the wilderness,” McLaughlin said. “With the rattlesnake show, it’s all about safety because that is a serious thing in Texas. Our show is primarily an educational show around rattlesnakes.”
McLaughlin said this year’s expo has been well received so far.
“People love it. They like coming out and seeing the different vendors,” he said. “That is the unique thing about the Lone Star Fair and Expo, we don’t stick to one type of vendor. We want to have an assortment of all sorts of stuff we like. The feedback has been really good and we are really excited to have Gator Country back and doing their stuff.”
The fair and expo runs through Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. Tickets are $6 for adults and $4 four children under 13. Gator Country will have shows at applies to the 1 p.m. and 4 p.m.