Rattlesnake fest not hiss-tory after all

New organizers have stepped forward to take over the management of the San Antonio Rattlesnake Festival & Run, an event that had appeared to be headed toward extinction.

The Thomas Promise Foundation will be taking over reins of running the festival, that has been a mainstay in the City of San Antonio for a half-century.

A Bay News 9 reporter gets a first-hand feel for this creature at the Croc Encounters’ alligator pen, a popular attraction at the San Antonio Rattlesnake Festival & Run.

The San Antonio Rotary Club had been the festival’s primary organizer and had announced on Feb. 1 that 50th festival, which was held in October, would be its last.

In announcing that decision, Betty Burke, festival chair, said the club decided to step away from the festival because it was too much for the small club to handle.

After that announcement, however, five organizations stepped forward, expressing interest in taking over the event.

Club members talked about those willing to take over the festival during the club’s Feb. 21 meeting, and after discussing the various pros and cons of each of the interested groups, they reached a consensus, deciding that Thomas Promise would be the best fit for the festival’s original mission.

Burke then headed to the San Antonio City Commission meeting to share the news.

This isn’t the first time the festival has had a new organizer.

Burke recapped the festival’s history, in her announcement about the festival’s demise.

The festival originally was conceived by founders Eddie Herrmann and Willy Post, as a rattlesnake roundup — to replace the San Antonio Junior Chamber of Commerce’s Fun Day, which was being discontinued.

The Jaycees presented the first Rattlesnake Roundup on Nov. 4, 1967, in City Park, in San Antonio, according to a history compiled by Burke. Its aim was to entertain and to give funds back to the community.

The event continued for nearly a decade with few changes, until the Jaycees, gave up their chapter. That prompted Herrmann and other members to form the Rattlesnake and Gopher Enthusiasts (R.A.G.E.) group to carry on the tradition.

In 2013, R.A.G.E. announced it could no longer manage the event due to a lack of new volunteers to help.

That’s when the San Antonio, Dade City Sunrise, Wesley Chapel, Wesley Chapel Sunrise, Zephyrhills and Zephyrhills Daybreak Rotary clubs stepped in and assumed leadership, under the banner of the East Pasco Rotary Charities.

After that, the San Antonio Rotary Club took over in 2014, assuming full leadership for the festival.

In choosing to hand the festival off to Thomas Promise Foundation, club members noted that the organization seems in line with the original intent, to help the local community.

Thomas Promise Foundation provides backpacks full of food complete with three meals and snacks for underprivileged children in Pasco County. The meals help feed children through the weekend when they would otherwise go without.

The charity’s Operation Backpack began after Brooke Thomas gave her lunch money to classmates she saw going hungry. When she asked her mom for more lunch money, her mom asked why, and Brooke said she just wanted to help.

Thomas Promise Foundation began with that young girl’s compassion.

Now, the organization will bring new life to the Rattlesnake Festival & Run.

Published March 1, 2017

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