Rattlesnake & Wildlife Festival – March 9 & 10, 2024.
The Claxton Rattlesnake & Wildlife Festival, (first known as the Claxton Rattlesnake Roundup) actually began with a snakebite in 1967. That summer, a local youth, David Wiggins, was bitten by an Eastern Diamondback rattlesnake while picking vegetables on a farm in Evans County. Although there was no anti-venom available, David received competent medical attention and survived the bite; but the road to recovery took a full twelve months with lingering side effects. At this same time, it was fast becoming evident that Evans County had a huge rattlesnake population. Rattlers, always common throughout the woods and farms, were seen sunning themselves on the greens and sand traps of the local golf course and slithering across yards in town.
In February 1968, in an effort to reduce the rattlesnake population and prevent snakebite fatalities, the first Rattlesnake Roundup was staged. Forty-eight snakes were turned in, two short of the modest 50 snake goal.
In 1969, the Club decided to add “beauty with the beasts”. Miss Debbie Green was crowned as the first Rattlesnake Roundup Queen. Two hundred-twenty-one snakes were turned in for this Roundup.
Early events were held in Claxton in a local tobacco warehouse. Arts and craft vendors, food vendors, a grand parade, beauty pageant, essay contest, snake milking and handling demonstrations, and entertainment were added with the rattlesnakes to make this event a nationwide attraction.
In 2001, event Headquarters was moved to the newly constructed Evans County Wildlife Club facility, located just west of Claxton, Georgia, off Highway 280.
Although the tradition of catching rattlesnakes for competition and prizes is no longer a part of the festival (the event’s name was changed to Claxton Rattlesnake & Wildlife Festival in 2012), the slithery creatures are still one of the concentrations for this event. Wildlife conservation has become the focus in recent years with support from the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Georgia Southern University, Orion Society, Jacksonville Zoo, and other organizations.
The Rattlesnake and Wildlife Festival is the greatest accomplishment of the Evans County Wildlife Club. The Southeast Tourism Society voted the Festival one of the “top Twenty Events in the Southeast”. The annual events brings over 12,000 tourists and an economic boost to the Evans County community.
For more information please visit www.ecwclub.org.